Jamie XX ‘In Colour’ – Review

15 Jul

The title of Jamie XX’s debut solo album, ‘In Colour’, suggests that the album is directly opposed to the records made by his band, The XX. You see, The XX are black and white, from their album art to their stage design to the simplicity of their music. That’s one thing Jamie obviously didn’t want his solo album to be. We equate colour with complexity and personality, two things critics of The XX would say they lack. As an artist who has delivered on his promises time and time again, it’s therefore a disappointment to find that ‘In Colour’ doesn’t make good on that title and jubilant cover art. For the most part, It’s a dull and uninspired album.

From the off it’s clear that Jamie XX is interested in nostalgia. If the UK Hardcore breakbeat and sample at the centre of ‘Gosh’ don’t make that clear then the wailing synth siren that comes in towards the end of the song certainly will. Throughout the album Jamie nods to the past all too politely; signifiers of trance are sprinkled like sugar, there are field recordings of conversations from club nights and samples from old doo wop records. As a result of all this looking back, Jamie forgets to look towards the future. You could put on Rinse FM right now and hear a bunch of tracks that are more innovative and far less acclaimed than anything on ‘In Colour’.

But this is not really a dance album. For starters you would have a really hard time dancing to many of these songs. It’s an album meant for the comedown rather than the rave itself. The beats are slippery and the reverb gives a sense of the good times fading out of view. Meanwhile the groove is nowhere to be found. This type of introverted, comedown dance is usually a strain of the genre I love, but here there just isn’t enough to get a grip on. When working within the confines of r&b inspired indie pop with The XX, the stark minimalism isn’t a problem, but in the context of ‘dance music’ it kind of is. The baselines are anaemic and, too often, barely register on a physical level. The sampling is uninspired and boring; take for example how the steel drum, a glorious instrument when used to its full potential, is wasted on ‘obvs’. Stripped of vocals, emotion or some sense of dynamism many of these songs feel empty at their core and lacking in flavour.

There are however signs that he hasn’t entirely lost the knack for crafting finely tuned, forward thinking, exciting music. The three songs featuring Oliver and Romi from The XX are among the finest things he’s ever done – which is high praise indeed. The melodies are exquisite, the production is subtle and the lyrics, that speak of loneliness and depression, are beautifully moving. In actual fact, you could easily swap these three songs with tracks of the group’s last record ‘Coexist’ and I doubt anybody would notice.

‘I Know There’s Gonna Be Good Times’ is the best thing on here not featuring Romi or Oliver, but there is also a strong and distinctive vocal at the centre of this track, which adds to the argument that Jamie works best with vocalists in the room. Young Thug’s inspired rap adds something completely out of the blue, while the clashing dancehall and doo wop samples rub up against each other perfectly, adding one of the album’s few moments of tension.

Four brilliant tracks out of eleven does not make ‘In Colour’ a great record, but it does make it one worth buying. Jamie’s done enough over the years to earn our trust and support, and nothing on ‘In Colour’ diminishes that; but the mediocrity is surprising. Jamie XX is a fine DJ, an excellent producer and an insanely talented guy all round. We’ve become so used to him churning out classic albums and singles that it’s a little bit difficult to accept ‘In Colour’, a record that is fantastic in parts and utterly sleepy at other points. He still works best when collaborating with singers and rappers within the realm of R&B/hip hop influenced indie pop. So if Jamie XX really wants to be a dance producer then he needs to discover the groove – and a lot more colour.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: