xin is a Berlin-based artist, writer and musician. Their debut LP, MELTS INTO LOVE, was released by Subtext in 2019. Described as “a deliriously psychedelic record [that] slithers in and out of the brain with the visceral body horror of a David Cronenberg movie” (FACT), MELTS INTO LOVE warps, mangles and strangles rave tropes into something anew. The record is released solely via independent platforms, with all proceeds going to Eden Reforestation Projects. Previously, they released their first solo EP, To Shock the Earth and Shake the Sky, and they also contributed to compilations on Genome 6.66mbp, Intruder Alert and AN BA.
How would you define xin, the entity behind the name?
I haven’t thought much about that, to be honest. xin is the alias I use for music and for more publicly facing work. I was never really interested in making a project that was more focused on me as a person.
Several of your tracks and releases have an activist element to them. Your Subtext debut LP Melts Into Love was released via independent platforms with all proceeds going to Eden Reforestation Projects. You have released a track on Intruder Alert’s compilation whose proceeds went to The Center for Women’s Rights in Warsaw. Can you talk about these endeavours and your role as a sound artist vis a vis society at large?
I went to art school, so when I started making music it was always music with a specific function, for a specific setting. Being exposed to the writings of people like Mark Fisher and Kodwo Eshun made it very clear that music is never “just” about sound and has never been. I was always excited by “extra-musical” elements in music—speculative fictions, sonic impossibilities… And then Holly Herndon’s Platform came out, which changed a lot for me and my understanding of what music can be—how it functions both socially and culturally. That record seemed to do so much, and it really got me thinking not just about the music I make but how it’s made, how it is shared, and all the other decisions that shape a release. I think her and Mat’s idea of pop as a carrier signal is really important and worthwhile, and if it wasn’t for people wielding music in such a way, I have no idea where I’d be!
You are featured on the Resonate platform, a community run alternative streaming platform. There’s lot of talk about big streaming platforms and their capitalist way of operation. Despite this, increasingly more independent artists present their music on platforms like Spotify. How do you imagine independent musicians can spread their music and work in the future?
Right now, I think of something like Bandcamp as the saving grace of many smaller music communities, and I think it will continue to be for some time. I don’t really expect to see the dominance of platforms like Spotify diminish in the coming years, to be honest. But at the same time, “small” alternatives shouldn’t be discounted. I think they’re very worthwhile in that they help remind us that other platforms, other ways of sharing with one another are all possible. A smaller social media alternative like Scuttlebutt may seem inconsequential to many, given its small user base, but of course it’s really worthwhile to the community on there. The same might apply to other kinds of platforms or digital service providers. All these “alternatives” help encourage us to imagine what other ways of connecting and sharing music might look like.
How is your music born?
A long and difficult labour…
To be honest, a lot of it has come about through inexperience, to some degree. A lot of blind experimentation, mistakes, misuse. I hardly knew anything about production when I started out, and so I wasn’t able to write with intent—it was just “what does this thing do? This sounds alright,” rinse and repeat. I always just tried to follow my gut.
By now I definitely have a bit more of an idea of what I’m doing, but I still do a lot of fucking around. Being able to be surprised is really important to me, I’m usually trying to strike a balance between intent and openness.
What has inspired you lately?
I was in a bit of a music rut for a while last year, and finding artists bringing fun to their work was really important. I love the playful, bizarre quality of W00dy’s music; the care yet irreverence in AYA’s sets; and Aquarian’s way of combining relentless bangers with a healthy dose of humour.
xin plays CTM Festival on 29 January.
Image: Ash Dcruz, Chris Tegho, Gabrielle Bejani