Thursday, 28 May 2015

Jamie xx - In Colour Review

There is no doubt that the runaway success of The xx's self-titled debut had an auspicious effect on the formerly drab pop landscape. Instead of cramming every inch with beats and effects, artists are now learning the power of space in their music. Now I know that I'm not reviewing an xx album and so won't drift too long but one cannot dismiss them as 'just another group of hipsters'. The fact that 'Intro' is even now the go-to soundtrack for TV suspense/ambiance rather than a classical composition from last century is pretty special, to me at least. This explains why this, the debut record from Jamie Smith (arguably the mastermind behind the band), has so much buzz surrounding it. Even though I recognize that both Romy and Oliver's contributions to The xx's sound were pivotal to the band's success, I believe the production is the best aspect of The xx and this was mainly down to Jamie. So now that he has finally emerged from the blackened indie mist and taken centre-stage, has he lived up to expectations? The answer is yes, yes he has.

'Gosh', an absolute banger, opens the record in a rather epic fashion, with thumbing beats circulating around a frantic vocal sample before soaring into a swirling melodic outro. Despite being one of the denser tracks on the record it still, like the rest of In Colour, toys with sparsity and vast soundscapes within a house context. 'Sleep Sound', despite having heard it over a year ago, has a whole new gravitas within the context of the record itself and I couldn't imagine it not being on here. Whilst we're speaking of pre-released material; 'Under One Roof Raving', perhaps my favourite Jamie xx track, didn't even make it onto the final tracklisting. Fortunately, 'Obvs' emerges as the former's tropical revenge, with steel drums having an even greater presence in its gittering production. The party continues with 'I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)' and though I don't really dig Young Thug ordinarily, his erratic style and flow work perfectly here, making it a fun and dynamic party track for the summer. Jamie also showcases his talent on slow-burners like 'The Rest Is Noise'- it takes a while to get going, but when it does...oh boy.

Even whilst Jamie is lost is the wonders of 'da club', he still hasn't forgotten his roots; In Colour features 3 collaborations with his xx bandmates Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim, whose contributions are among the album's many standout moments. 'Loud Places' caused excitement for this record to reach fever-pitch when it dropped earlier this year, mainly due to Jamie's otherworldly sample-usage in its euphoric chorus. In a sea of instrumentals, these three tracks lyrically delve into themes of anxiety and uncertainty, more so on 'Stranger in a Room', with Oliver asking “want to change your colors/Just for the night?”. On album highlight 'Seesaw' Romy's signature hushed sultry purr oozes over a dreamy nocturnal melody, the vocals and the production work seamlessly together to create one glorious, driving and, dare I say, colourful soundscape.

In Colour, though composed of a mixture of pre-released material (Girl, Sleep Sound), club bangers (Gosh, Good Times) as well as a handful of tracks which could just as easily been featured on a new xx record (Seesaw, Stranger in a Room, Loud Places), works immaculately as one cohesive body of work. Despite its many standouts, one can't help but listen to the LP in its entirety, that's the only way one can appreciate the triumph that this record is.


Best tracks: Gosh, Sleep Sound, Seesaw, Loud Places, The Rest Is Noise

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