Published May 29, 2015While his band the xx have always been an exercise in restraint, Jamie xx's compositions have expressed a little more exuberance and, yes, colour; they're sparse, but they've revelled in the unlimited sounds of a DJ's world before being scaled back to just a few crucial elements that generate maximum emotion. In Colour is a master class in deftness.
The record is all sparse, sedate club rhythms, bass groove and a slew of instruments: he uses a hint of guitar on the R&B twinkle of "Stranger in a Room" to affect the dark minimalism that haunts xx bandmate Oliver Sim's self-effacing lyrics; thumb piano adorns the pretty, gently pulsing "Sleep Sound"; and he manages to make steel drums sound somehow both joyous and deeply sad on "Obvs."
Jamie has said that he's happy with music as long as it "makes me feel something," and that's crucial to understanding In Colour. While a few critics have pointed to the tracks here as too soft, as though he's simply diluted UK bass music, Jamie has crafted these songs for the heart, not for the dance floor.
While the adrenaline rush of "Gosh," the sunny "I Know There's Gonna Be Good Times," featuring Young Thug and Popcaan, and the jazzy, clap-driven "The Rest is Noise" are all highlights, the best example of Jamie's emotive genius is easily "Loud Places," featuring the xx's Romy Madley-Croft. Sparse, glass-like percussion and piano chords open the track, but it's when the hazy, filtered crowd vocals, gospel claps and slide guitar licks come in that the tracks really hits, climaxing and then descending into a longing outro that makes you yearn to play it again.