Romy Xeno was born in South Africa, and lived there until she moved to the radically different climes of London when she was 16. This is a simple print reduction for what was a huge life experience for Xeno, and does not encapsulate quite the magnitude of such a radical shift. However, that’s where she steps up as Xenoula, and throughout her self-titled debut album she tackles this culture clash aurally.

Teaming up with producer Sam Dust, they have together created a collection of electronic avant-pop songs that are difficult to place in any box sonically or geographically, although they all comprise echoes of the sounds and culture of both London and South Africa. Dust has proven himself adept at melding to the sounds that suit his musical mission, as in Soft Hair, the freak-fi partnership with Connan Mockasin, or his own work as the shaman-like figure LA Priest. Dust ensures that Xeno is front and centre, and allows her to be the spirit guide through this heady trip into electronic anthropology.

Xenoula starts off with its most instantly appealing and attractive songs. ‘Chief of Tin’ is a crunchy introduction to the burbling synths that form the meat of the aural palette here, with Xenoula’s playful vocals dancing about on top, giving us a welcoming handshake to her vision. ‘Luna Man’ is the most immediate song to be found here, its chorus instantly reaching earworm status, but more impressive is the balmy environment the song renders; it’s as though you are actually on an African plain under the stars, the summer night wrapping you delicately in a perfectly warmed blanket. A bond with nature is tangible throughout the album, as on the following ‘Cyan Water’, which is like the new day rising on the all-night party of ‘Luna Man’, and bringing with it a whole new world of sparkling wonders and, most crucially, pools of nature’s essential resource.

Throughout the album, the production is modern and pristine, but has hints of the African roots of Xenoula’s past. Whether it’s the wooden-sounding programmed percussion or the hollowed out synths, it’s not impossible to imagine these songs being transformed into an all analogue group love-in, akin to a drum circle. This is most tangible on the ritualistic ‘She Ghosts’, where Xenoula is surrounded by spirits and happily frolics amidst them, as though they are long-lost ancestors. ‘Leyline Ogres’ is a rich clash of cultures, as Xenoula sings of various influences in a seductive manner, the synths squashing and smearing to match the breadth of her ideas.

Sometimes Xenoula shifts more towards a sultry, sexy synth-pop album, where Xeno takes time to explore the human side of things, and proves she is just as compelling in this gear. ‘Caramello’ could easily have come from LA Priest’s quirky genre-hopping debut album, while ‘Honey Priest’ is as scandalously alluring as its title suggests, slithering about with a selection of watery sounds backing up her perky proclamations. ‘Alauda’ is treacle-like in its gait, but from this underpinning Xenoula desire to “fly up in the wind,” in order to follow the one she desires, her words wreathed in imperious melodies pushing her towards her goal.

Xenoula is an accomplishment in its symphonic wrangling of various ideas and extraneous sounds into compact experimental pop songs. With so much going on sonically, and two musicians who are far from short on ideas and creativity, this could easily have sprawled out into a completely different, much less digestible album. However, as it is, Xenoula is a funky, fresh and downright fun album that comprises many palette-expanding songs for anyone with pop proclivities.