Since releasing their 2009 debut album, British band The xx has won over audiences with their unique take on modern indie music, channeling influences that recall both the hushed and mysterious sounds of 80s bands such as the Cocteau Twins and The Cure, and the more direct but still sensual styling of 90s R’n’B artists, such as Aaliyah or Mariah Carey. The creative force behind their productions is the self-styled Jamie xx, born Jamie Smith. While releasing music with band mates Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft, Jamie has forged a name for himself in the last few years as a solo artist as well, highlights including remix work for artists such as Radiohead and Four Tet, as well as his excellent remix album with the late Gil-Scott Heron, 2011’s ‘We’re New Here’. With artists such as Rihanna and Drake sampling his production work, it was only a matter of time before we’d be treated to a full-length solo outing from Jamie and this arrives in the form of ‘In Colour’ (2015, Young Turks).
When listening to ‘In Colour’, the true depth and range of Jamie’s talent as a producer is witnessed. Jamie has accomplished what many try but few succeed in doing. By creating an electronic dance album that captures both the sound and energy of a rave or club, the sound still manages to result in a very personal and private listening. It sounds good when played in front of tens of thousands, but it also sounds great when listening alone on your headphones on the night bus home. The album reads as Jamie’s love letter to all the different styles of electronic music that have helped make London perhaps the world’s most diverse club scene over the last two decades. Tracks such as the album opening ‘Gosh’ and ‘Sleep Sound’ perfectly capture the frantic energy and rhythm of classic 90s rave, complete with obligatory samples from seminal 90s hardcore documentary ‘Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore’. Whilst the grey line between influence and outright tribute is one that all too many producers find themselves falling into, ‘In Colour’ is more than just a compilation of 90s electronica and rave stereotypes. Jamie xx may have been too young to have witnessed the heyday of these scenes first hand, but he uses his love of these sounds as a benchmark to explore his own sounds and ideas.
Not entirely forgetting his xx band mates, both vocalists (Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft) lend their creative talents on the tracks ‘SeeSaw’, ‘Stranger In A Room’ and ‘Loud Places’. Perhaps, these tracks lend a hand to the idea of the sound the xx should have pursued after their debut album in 2009, instead of their somewhat underwhelming second album ‘Coexist’.
The album highlight is found in what surely must be the upcoming club hit of the summer. ‘I Know There’s Going To Be (Good Times)’ features two of the most interesting musicians of the last couple of years, Atlanta rapper Young Thug and Jamaican dancehall musician, Popcaan. While such a line-up sounds like the brainstorm of a record label executive looking for the next crossover hit, as soon as Young Thug begins his trademark Southern croon over those beautiful steel drums you can’t help but want to dance.