On first listen, it doesn’t take long to understand why Tucson-based rock band XIXA call their music “mystic desert rock.” “Thine Is the Kingdom,” the opening track of their sophomore LP Genesis, wastes no time establishing an atmosphere that’s equal parts enigmatic and epic. Defined by fluttering guitars and soaring vocals, the song summons the vast expanse of the Sonoran in all its chalky reds and grays, its dry shrubs and saguaros. The song’s shuffling beat, accented by terse cymbal strikes, introduces the album’s fondness for duality. Throughout Genesis, XIXA strike a balance between liveliness and patience—think the cozy, lackadaisical pacing of Westerns like Rio Bravo—with innovative results.
XIXA cull from various strains of Latin music, from Chicha (psychedelic cumbia from Peru) to Tejano, but instill all of it with a brooding, serious sound even on the uptempo numbers, which distinguishes them from contemporary acts like Los Pirañas or Sonido Gallo Negro, who prefer to keep things light and uptempo. Part of that moodiness is a result of Gabriel Sullivan’s vocals: On “Nights Plutonian Shore,” there’s a graveliness to his low-register croon that adds a sense of lived-in drama to a song filled with hand percussion and piano flourishes.
In contrast to the band’s previous releases and solo efforts, Genesis feels full-bodied. The tightness of the songwriting allows the rich detail of every song to shine through, whether it’s the resplendent choral singing on “Land Where We Lie,” the shimmering psychedelic swirls of “Soma,” or the surf rock guitars on “May They Call Us Home.” Genesis closes with “Feast of Ascension,” an introspective country slow-burner that climaxes with rip-roaring guitars. Eventually, it disintegrates into a gurgling hiss—an appropriately cinematic ending to this scorching trek.