PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Jamie xx: In Colour

Jamie xx steps out from behind the xx's monochromatic palette with a Technicolor solo debut, the appropriately titled In Colour.


Jamie xx

In Colour

Label: Young Turks
US Release Date: 2015-06-02
UK Release Date: 2015-06-02
Amazon
iTunes

When the xx released their debut album in 2009, its icy minimalism was met with worldwide critical acclaim. Combining a range of styles (post-punk, dubstep, R&B, indie pop) and stripping each to its barest essentials, the xx sound was that of a band revitalizing stale genres from the inside out. While Oliver Sim and Romy, the group’s detached, navel-gazing vocalists, were singled out, it soon became clear that there was another, more engaging persona behind the group’s sound. Given the chance, the xx’s monochromatic world could be infused with a host of vibrant colors.

But with the xx quiet now for three years following 2012's Coexist, Jamie xx in the meantime found himself an in-demand producer and remix artist. Having worked with the late Gil Scott-Heron between xx albums helped raise the profiles of both artists, earning Scott-Heron a brand new, younger audience while elevating Jamie xx’s status as a producer of forward-thinking electronic music. On his solo debut, he touches on his broad spectrum of influences and experiences making In Colour feel more like a triumphant victory lap than a coming out party.

A more sophisticated sonic architect than the xx’s icy minimalism would lead listeners to believe, Jamie xx’s full-length debut is a multi-hued collection of songs and tracks that carry traces of his production work for others enlivened by his own skillful eye for composition and genre melding. As the album’s title implies, In Colour eschews the xx’s monochromatic approach in favor of a broader spectrum of sound and color.

There are still elements of the xx’s melancholic wistfulness, however. But here they are tempered with a more humanistic quality; a depth of emotion and subtle nuance that makes these tracks more immediately welcoming. Both “See Saw” and “Loud Places” feature Romy on vocals, and provide a glimpse at what that group could sound like should they ever decide to forgo their minimalistic approach in favor of lusher, fuller arrangements. None of their trademark stark emotionality is lost in the transition, proving somewhat paradoxically that less is not necessarily always more. “Loud Places” especially benefits from a fuller arrangement, with Romy almost breaking her icy monotone on several occasions to revel in the celebratory feel going on around her. It’s a subtle show of solidarity and support for Jamie xx’s more overt dance sensibilities and influences, helping show this to be the necessary work of a singular, vital voice in contemporary music rather than a solo outing based on an overinflated ego.

Similarly, Sim checks in on “Stranger In A Room”. With its minor key synth arpeggiations and bare guitar lines, “Stranger In A Room” is the only track on In Colour that could pass for an xx track. It’s a fine reminder of what that group can sound like when operating at their minimalistic best. Coming as it does mid-way through the album, it’s a pleasant respite from the more densely structured arrangements, an acknowledgement of where he has been in the midst of showcasing where he is headed.

On “Hold Tight”, the repetition of disparate phrases become the central focus, building in direct contrast to one another and using volume and rhythm as the basis for each part then woven into a sort of electronic counterpoint. It’s an almost-classical approach to composition that shows Jamie xx to be more than simply an accomplished producer, but savvy composer as well, capable of complex ideas built around basic, repetitious phrases.

This idea plays out with subtle variations on “Sleep Sound”. Bending and stretching a Four Freshman sample, the phrase is rendered unrecognizable; a scrambled transmission fading in and out, carrying hints of the familiar before again disappearing. Only at the end is the sample finally allowed to coalesce and resolve its fractured self into the original sound of its source material. It’s an interesting move that is then played out in reverse on “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times).” Built around a sample of the Persuasions’ “Good Times,” the song itself lifts the phrase wholesale for the intro before cutting and splicing within Young Thug and Popcann’s guest verses (including the somewhat ridiculous line “I’m gonna ride in that pussy like a stroller”). Despite the recent controversy surrounding the legality of Jamie xx’s use the sample itself, it shows him to be competent in crafting traditionally structured pop songs. Loaded with hooks, it’s a natural extension of his more tracks-based approach and could serve as the necessary entry point for a broader audience.

On the whole, In Color is a vibrant, warm distillation of Jamie xx’s genre-spanning influences, one which could easily result in a meteoric rise in his profile. Given the strength of his work as both a producer and member of the xx up to this point, it would be a well-deserved promotion and recognition for an exceptional job well done.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.