Album Review: “In Colour” by Jamie xx

Album Review: “In Colour” by Jamie xx

In what has been one of the most anticipated releases of 2015, Jaime xx unveiled this week his solo debut for all the world to see–and many expected a record nothing short of the grandeur of his reputation as a producer and artist would allow.

As a core member of one of the 2000’s most successful projects, The xx, Jaime has been developing his sound in the public eye for years. Whether it was honing his mastery of emotionally charged crescendos out of simplistic voids of guitar chords and twinkling synths with partners Romy Croft and Oliver Sim; or remixing, producing, and experimenting on his own in the outskirts of 90’s tinged electronica and house.

While In Colour at times sounds like an attempt to connect the dots between the young producer’s solo work and The xx, the record’s cohesive nature is anything but The xx or Coexist 2.5. The album is decisive and daring–but never damning–in its minimalist make-up and meanderings of vibrantly tropical percussion and atypical, dark atmospherics.

By the time, “SeeSaw,” emerges with the always haunting and endlessly lovely murmurs of Croft, it’s stuttering percussion lull and resounding blips of synth carry the emotive viscosity of The xx–a fact that shouldn’t be winced at but applauded. Case in-point: in arguably the best song on the album, “Loud Places,” Romy and Jaime come together once more for a sweetly blistering anthem of uplifting harmonies and glowing guitars that sting like cigarette burns on the cheek.

Similarly in, “Stranger In A Room,” which involves the hoarsely seductive vocals of Sim against a bleak backdrop lit only by the hazy smolder of electrics, it’s easy to draw comparisons to The xx’s seasoned ambient simplicity.

But from the get-go, In Colour pulses to life gradually as each of the album’s tracks bleed out to fill the spaces between the dots of Jaime’s menagerie of influences. The bass heavy intro, “Gosh,” which at first bumps frantically against warped vocal samples, eventually is cut by a lush stream of glistening screeches–and the otherwise crude noises are given melodious beauty in the hands of Jaime.

While tracks like the xylophone laden, “Obvs,” and the droning pigments of swelling house in, “Hold Tight,” the tenacity that Jaime has made a name with shines through. “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times),” is the record’s best kept secret–a left-field hip-hop track caught somewhere between Kendrick Lamar stylized compositions and an edgy, percussion pedaling fuselage.

In Colour ends on two colossal high notes as Jaime leisurely, but emphatically, makes his departure from this planet–leaving behind on the ground any doubts he could carve out a niche that didn’t exist in the shadow of The xx. In the groove of, “The Rest Is All Noise,” thundering piano melodies and chaotic explosions of phased-out vocals send you propelling towards distant galaxies; while “Girl” slides us into cruise-control as sultry beats dance dreamily inside a sonorous vaccum of mellifluously echoed vocals.

At 26-years-old Jaime xx has effectively become a triple-threat–but it goes without saying that In Colour owes its dazzling fluidity to its puppet-master’s experience with The xx and as a producer. The album may not go from zero to one-hundred very quickly, but there are hints of patience and maturity in its spaciousness. Electronica, and by association house and dub-step, require an air of theatrics and skill to translate sound into art, into emotion.

Jaime knows when to take his foot off the gas to coast us through his sublimely painted sceneries, and when to pull us out of our bodies into technicolor ecstasy–the result being an illustrious tapestry that leaves you euphoric and dazed the longer you listen.

In Colour is out now via Young Turks.

English major and amateur photographer. I'm the guy in the corner of the coffee shop plugged-in to Arcade Fire, typing away like a madman.