While the complex, tangled niche of EDM largely aims for the suppression of exterior noise, maximizing listener zone-out, UK house mastermind Jamie xx has found a way to amplify it, bringing it brilliantly to life and—more importantly—our attention. Cranking up the world’s volume around us, he invites in both its harmony and discord, through sound and melody.
Jamie’s breakout studio album is a dazzling conglomeration of EDM remnants—a long-awaited, highly personal project from the xx’s humble, low-profile production brain. Though the 26-year-old DJ keeps fair distance from the spotlight, his name can’t seem to leave our lips…which makes his new 11-track compilation, In Colour, nothing short of a gift for those craving Jamie-only material.
With little other than an e-drum set, laptop, and multi-track recorder, he handpicks glints of sound, fuzzy vinyl samplings, and intimate, small-venue reverb: the employers of the acute emotion he awakens listeners to–whether love, bliss, or uncertainty– all within his synthesized prism of melody. Influenced by a melting pot of trance, electronic, hip-hop, dancehall, and reggae, Jamie conceives not just ‘beats’, but instrumental narratives for life’s every vulnerable moment.
At times, the xx frontman’s major reveal is one of life’s raw clamor; “Gosh” is a gritty street banger iced out with muggy city racket: sirens, distant vocal murmurs, and a raucous jam of sound traffic. Conversely, “Sleep Sound” is meditative and trance-like, an emphasis on numbed, routine motion. Mashed-up, Beach Boys-eque vocals reverberate over stuttering drum-lines and sunken 808s.
Then, there’s the magnification of life’s euphoria. “Loud Places”, featuring the xx’s own Romy Madley Croft, is sheer sunlight. What starts off as a hushed, jaded reflection in a very ‘quiet place’ builds up to a radiant burst of reawakened warmth, an assured return to comfort…though the hook is unchanged (“I have never reached such heights/ [Reach without me], I feel music in your eyes”…). Off-key in the sweetest, slightest way, a hoard of vocals make up its ambrosial, swallowing chorus, while a tolling rhythm guitar chimes in beside Romy’s breathy vocals. Elevating and anthemic, the track is most refreshing in its almost celebratory coming-to-terms with solitude.
Diversity in sampling is a key component for achieving Jamie xx-level renown, and there are moments on In Colour during which Jamie makes the unfathomable mesh happen, like barbershop-gospel spiritualism with bouncy, tropics-born dancehall, on “I Know (There’s Gonna Be Good Times)”: a moment where Young Thug actually shines. Jamaican artist Popcaan delivers island-y background chants and the beat goes. so. hard.
Despite In Colour‘s solo album status, Jamie invites the xx fam onboard for a handful of tracks (“SeeSaw”, “Stranger In A Room”). Oliver Sim lends his vocals for the latter, a quietly spiteful cut that sounds just like “Fiction” and returns to our mouth the bitterness that Coexist planted there.
In a time and sub-category of music where unbarred digital capacity can warrant dull, cavernous, and repetitive instrumentals–ones that feel nearly impersonal and ‘rave-only’, Jamie xx remains a sui generis mixmaster standout amongst computer-glaze-eyed DJ peers. Piecing perfectly together every fragment of sounds in bright, in-reach, and full-of-life technique, he truly spins EDM into art—an intimate kind that enriches the noise already buzzing around us.
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