Through the producer's work as one half of 5kinAndBone5, his beats for rappers like Mykki Blanco and Le1f, and the steady stream of solo productions and remixes that keep blasting out of his SoundCloud page, Matrixxman has been gaining a reputation as one of the most versatile producers on the internet. His latest release, The XX Files EP, out on young Brooklyn imprint Fifth Wall, marks a turn toward a somewhat more conventional release structure and sound. The EP comprises four new originals from the producer, all of which take inspiration from late-'80s/early-'90s Detroit and Chicago sounds, as well as two remixes from Ill Life and Myler, who both offer rough, techno-flavored takes on the record's otherwise slick demeanor.
The XX Files largely operates on a "less is more" proviso. Opening track "Case Closed" offers a wonky take on melodic, atmospheric house, with ambling synth workouts and a crisp, unfailing 4/4 that makes the track come across as lean and stripped down. "Credentials" heads down a darker path, getting closer to techno than the rest of the EP's originals and locating a productive tension through subtle melodic variations, while "Protocol" tries and largely fails to achieve that same tension through sparse, brutal percussion. The influence of Mr. Fingers can be felt heavily over the whole EP, but perhaps nowhere more so than on "A Witness," an elastic number built around a worming acid-house groove, cascading percussion, and vintage claps.
The EP's two remixes act as a bit of contrast to the linear rhythms of The XX Files' first four offerings. London producer Ill Life's take on "Case Closed" is barely recognizable from the original, reworking it into a brutal slice of Blawan-esque techno. "Credentials" is also severely altered, with Myler layering on thick, syrupy distortion to minimal, plodding beats. Matrixxman's new, more straightforward direction is a welcome step for the idiosyncratic producer; there are many moments to savor here, and the worst that can be said is that The XX Files EP perhaps veers a little too close to monotony.