The production wing of The xx steps out of the shadows with his first solo full-length
With his new website design and polychromatic Instagram puzzles, there’s been a lot of hype surrounding the latest release from wunderkind Jamie Smith, otherwise known as Jamie xx. In the years since The xx’s astonishing self-titled debut, Jamie has had quite the creative journey, turning his hand to DJ sets and remixing Radiohead, Florence And The Machine and Gil Scott-Heron among others. Now he’s pulling away the safety net of working with other people’s music and is setting out alone – almost.
As you would expect from a young and sociable producer’s first release, ‘In Colour’ is full of Jamie’s mates: Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft from The xx feature, as do Four Tet, Young Thug and Popcaan. Although it’s very much Jamie’s project, the presence of congenial collaborators and familiar samples helps to ease you into the world of hazy dancefloor encounters that he’s trying to evoke. Listening to ‘In Colour’ is like walking into a club filled with friends ready to introduce you to new people before you flit off to the next group. It’s not just an album, it’s a perfect night out.
Jamie himself says ‘In Colour’ is about nightlife, but despite the dance music influences, the lyrics focus not on what you do at a club, but who you leave with, who you put your arm around as you walk home in the cold. It’s a romantic record, even though it lacks the duets that tend to characterise Jamie’s work with Oliver and Romy. None of the tracks could really be described as downtempo, but many have the feel of a slow (or at least slower) dance, requiring the movement of another person’s body as a counterpoint to your own.
Romy’s voice is, unfortunately, a bit of a let down. It works best on ‘SeeSaw’, where her melancholy mumbling drifts gently underneath the main melody of the song. On ‘Loud Places’, though, her lyrics and her tone don’t quite seem to fit with the ethos of the record. Oliver has more luck on the superb ‘Stranger In A Room’ and his contribution seems to be much more in keeping with the rest of ‘In Colour’ – downplayed and smooth.
The album comes to a close with two more genius tracks: ‘The Rest Is Noise’ and ‘Girl’. The latter was issued as a double A-side last year with ‘Sleep Sound’. Both use subtle vocal samples and effects to add depth and colour to their instrumentations, and the deep wobbles that kick in half way through ‘The Rest Is Noise’ hark forwards to the intensely danceable bass on ‘Girl’, which brilliantly uses a sample of Freeez’s 1983 hit ‘I.O.U.’.
This perhaps isn’t the groundbreaking, in-yer-face solo debut we might have had from the producer darling du jour. Instead, it pushes at its boundaries gently; it yearns to be listened to, it demands to be shared with friends and loved ones. ‘In Colour’ is much like Jamie himself: understated, cool and collected, with touches of real brilliance – just enough to dazzle but, considerately, not so much as to blind.