Xander Naylor Fuses Avant Jazz, Post Rock and Hindustani Classical Music on New LP ‘Continuum’
The American guitarist’s album has been released via New York City’s Chant Records
At the beginning of 2020, New York City-based guitarist-composer Xander Naylor went on a six-city tour across India alongside Pune artists, guitarist-bassist Vinay Kaushal and drummer Shreyas Iyengar. On the tour, Naylor performed his go-to dose of instrumental post-rock meets jazz and Hindustani classical music. “On tour, the collective experience seeps into the music, even the food. Those guys [Kaushal and Iyengar] probably play more Western-style music than I do, and I probably play more Indian-style music than they do. I’ve learned a lot from working with them,” says Naylor.
The American musician has now captured his unique sonic sensibilities on the just-released eight-track new album Continuum, out via New York City’s Chant Records.
The seeds for Continuum was planted a few years ago when Naylor was touring the U.S. with his band Sound Machine and wanted to capture that live sound in the studio. The guitarist wrote most of the album while he cozied away in Vermont during the winter. He says, “I would go out to look at the moon at night and my beard would freeze. I didn’t give myself more than two weeks to get the material together.” Each track on the album flows seamlessly into the next as we’re treated to ridiculous guitar work, snazzy horn sections, well thought out dynamic shifts as well as a juxtaposition of genres blending well together to create that signature Naylor sound.
The opening track on the record is the passionate “Lunar Acropolis” based on the Raag Marwa. “I’ve been studying Hindustani music with Pt. Samir Chatterjee for over 10 years now, but that was the first time it came into my music organically like that. That felt special,” says Naylor. The album also includes stormy jazz (“Export For Screens”), frenzied instrumentation (“Surrender”), tranquility (“Who Laughs Last?”), stomping grooves (“Leverage”) and more.
Naylor recruited producer Ian Hersey to work with him on the album at The Bunker Studio in Brooklyn and tracked extended versions of the songs there as well as at Hersey’s Carefree studios, which they cut down later. “The way Miles Davis and Teo Macero were doing with Miles’ early Seventies records like On The Corner,” says the guitarist. Continuum also features background vocals by Sarah Pedinotti and Angelica Bess as well as horn parts from Alec Spiegelman, Alex Asher, and Cole Kamen-Green. “It was really inspiring to see how they picked up my oftentimes vague instructions and ran with them,” says Naylor. Jacob Bergson engineered the sessions while Alex Syner mastered the project.
One of the main reasons why Naylor decided to title the record Continuum was as a reminder to himself that nothing is ever black and white. He says, “This album is about the continual gradations of humanity and digitization we’re living in right now. Although tension is there, it’s also super hopeful.”
Ask him if he worried about his album getting confused with American singer-songwriter John Mayer’s 2006 magnum opus Continuum and he says, “I honestly only found out about the title overlap with that other record a few days ago. I always knew Continuum was going to be this album’s title. Maybe I should have checked. A close friend called me up and was like, ‘You know, that’s the same as…?’ It is what it is.”
Throughout the pandemic, Naylor has practiced a lot and begun writing new music too. He’s currently quarantining in Vermont where he’s been able to meet with friends and jam together. He says, “It’s been a relief. Music is medicine. It’s a cure. Music can do rare healing work.” The weather plays a big role when it comes to penning new material and Naylor is looking forward to winter and the snow once more to inspire him. He says, “As soon as travel opens up again, I’ll definitely be heading to India again.”
Stream ‘Continuum’ on Spotify below and buy it on Bandcamp.