In many ways, the debut album ‘In Colour’ by xx producer Jamie Smith is yet another retrospective record that purposefully rearranges the music of the past – something UK artists are utilizing greatly in current music. Sampling is very in-vogue.
But ‘In Colour’ is not just another mere pop nostalgia trip. Jamie xx, is not only a sampling artist, but a memory artist. He creates sonic memory pieces with the associations he has formed in music of the past. In this sense, we are listening to his listening and hearing his hearing. ‘In Colour’ is a journey for the listener, through Jamie xx’s senses.
It might be multicolored and multi-textured 11-track homage to dance of the past, but it is also about the pleasure of being alone, enveloped in bass, in a crowded club. It develops dance music to suit the introvert music lover looking for a deeper experience than a superficial clubbing one.
While ‘In Colour’ is far more uplifting than the xx’s works – for example the escalating bounce of Gosh, the opening track, or I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times), which features Atlantan sing-rapper Young Thug vs. Jamaican dancehall MC Popcaan – it is also one of the least ravy party albums one could imagine. It works on the fact that it juxtapositions the heady heights of 5am raving with melancholia vibes or being alone.
Sung by Jamie’s xx bandmate Oliver Sim, the minimal Stranger in a Room is a celebration of liberating yourself from your daily constraints. “Wanna change your colours, just for the night?” sings Sim. “With no word of it following you home?” This track is interesting as it has no chorus or clear warning of an ending, but flows straight into the next track. Hold Tight begins distantly, slowly coming into focus, leaving you grasping onto each beat as it hones in.
One of Smith’s signature steel pan melodies opens a track called Obvs, but these pieces of branding are always kept beautifully minimal throughout this album, sometimes reappearing in disguise – as clinking bottles, or distant arpeggios of keyboards. These melodies are so emotive and effective at creating an ambient and enveloping world; introverts paradise.
The entire album puts you in that club, that rave or that music venue. The different bass sounds coming in and out of emphasis in the corridors, chattering in queues forming part of the soundscape but most importantly, the elated feelings of simply being there. This is a stand out piece of work from Jamie xx, as a concept album it’s very successful.
‘In Colour’ is out now on Young Turks Recordings Ltd.