Release Date: Jun 2, 2015
Record label: Young Turks
Genre(s): Electronic, Garage, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Club/Dance, Indie Electronic, Indie Pop, Dubstep
All minimalism centers around movement. Look at architecture, art, and literature: Their minimalist incarnations strive to open up space where the viewer or reader can be free. In the context of dance music, room to move is arguably the most important thing you can have. Jamie Smith, aka Jamie xx, capitalizes on that principle with In Colour, a debut of gorgeous, sweeping tracks.
The sampler is a memory machine. This is true in both the literal sense—memory is one of the device’s key specs, measuring how much sonic information it can hold in its "mind" at once—but also as a metaphor. When you capture and play back a sound, transposing it to a new context, you are "playing" the memories that have attached themselves to the original piece of music as much as you are playing a particular piece of sound.
For those who don’t know any better, it’s presumed that Jamie xx’s second solo studio album In Colour is a drop into a fever-induced hallucination. Opener “Gosh” is all double-time drum and bass, basement and DJ banter. It’s a vibe either 25-years-old or currently, part of a reality so underground, some might be too mainstreamed to notice.
If there’s one element that reflects the development of Jamie xx’s musical career, it may well be his album artwork. Both of the covers for his albums with The xx can be described with the same adjectives always applied to the band’s music- minimal, evocative, sleek. They both strike a delicate balance between two elements (black and white in the first, oil and water in the second) that mirrors the boy-girl dynamic of their songs.
Jamie xx has made no secret of his influences. First there was the xx beatmaker’s solo introduction to the world as Gil Scott-Heron’s chosen remixer on 2011’s We’re New Here; then, last year, the producer born Jamie Smith unleashed “All Under One Roof Raving,” his tribute to trance (and rave, grime, U.K. funky, dubstep, breakbeat, reggae, and every other vinyl from a dance subgenre that the respectful sampler could get his hands on).
Jamie xx (real name Jamie Smith) began a 2014 Boiler Room set with a track that shouted out many of the past gods of UK dance (Carl Cox, Fabio, Jumping Jack Frost and others) and there’s much about his work as a producer, remixer and DJ that’s concerned with paying his dues, while also updating the music in a typically tasteful way. The 27-year-old’s debut solo album, ‘In Colour’, begins with a fine track called ‘Gosh’ that samples drum’n’bass MCs from an unaired mid-‘90s BBC Radio 1 ‘One In The Jungle’ pilot, but you can also hear 18-year-old grime rapper/producer Novelist laughing at the end of ‘I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)’, putting ‘In Colour’ in a contemporary context. As you’d imagine from a producer famed for being a member of minimalist indie pop band The xx, ‘Gosh’ is an almost brutally simple song that adds the sample from the Radio 1 pilot and a siren-like, two-fingers-maximum keyboard line to a shuffling beat and ultra-basic bassline.
While what made The xx so special was the trifecta of vocalist, bassist, and producer, it was the latter, Jamie Smith, who was always destined to take his skills elsewhere. His 2011 remix album with the late, great godfather of hip-hop Gil Scott-Heron proved Smith's capabilities away from the band format, channeling the best elements of the U.K. underground bass scene into a signature production style.
Review Summary: Shut up and dance.In what can only really be described as an indignant and somewhat self-righteous attempt to tank sales and alienate potential customers, popular vinyl distribution site Boomkat has allowed a rare negative review to accompany a listing of Jamie xx’s newest LP, In Colour. There, mere inches from the “Buy” button, appears a scathing critique of the safeness and lack of spirit the release ostensibly embodies. “In Colour posits Jamie as the pre-eminent posh soul boy, lifting and massaging inspiration from the rich heritage of late '80s + early '90s London dance culture and channelling it into a pop-ready format palatable to Radio 1 daytime tastes and festival soundtracks,” it complains.
Compared to Jamie xx's impact on music, it's easy to forget that he hasn't released much on his own. The distinctive yet surprisingly versatile blend of indie, R&B, and dance in his work with the xx, Gil Scott-Heron, and his remixes helped shape the sound of the late 2000s and 2010s, but his solo discography was limited to a handful of singles, many of which appear on his first full-length, In Colour. While one of his best singles, "All Under One Roof Raving," doesn't appear on the album, its balance of the kinetic and the atmospheric -- as well as its reverence for classic U.K.
When the xx released their debut album in 2009, its icy minimalism was met with worldwide critical acclaim. Combining a range of styles (post-punk, dubstep, R&B, indie pop) and stripping each to its barest essentials, the xx sound was that of a band revitalizing stale genres from the inside out. While Oliver Sim and Romy, the group’s detached, navel-gazing vocalists, were singled out, it soon became clear that there was another, more engaging persona behind the group’s sound.
What Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock" was to the hippie era, Jamie xx's solo debut is to British club culture: a wistful valentine conjuring a more innocent time. Exhibit A is "Gosh," which flips a sound bite from a pioneering U.K. jungle broadcast. But the track isn't jungle per se, because the head chef of the xx shoots for moods, not rote styles — which is why he's among pop's greatest producers.
The sleeve for Jamie xx’s first full-length has a lot to say about the producer’s career so far. In five years, Jamie Smith’s work has spanned from convention-shunning remixes to star-studded studios. He’s produced for Drake and aligned himself with the UK’s underground, without over-committing to one particular world. Each shade on ‘In Colour’ is meant to represent the various strands to Jamie xx’s work, and it’s no surprise that this debut is a wildly varied introduction.
When should you judge a book by its cover? Well if the cover is as colourful as the one adorning the first solo album proper from Jamie xx, it is strongly advised. It is here that he celebrates life in all its Technicolor glory, beckoning summer to make itself known in an album of throwbacks, premonitions, and barely restrained good times. This is a cosmopolitan piece of work, a kind of Notting Hill Carnival record, where steel pans, UK garage, soul and funk freely mix, rubbing shoulders on the same dancefloor.
Jamie Smith’s debut solo album comes billed as a vibrant, more playful affair than his work with the xx. This is in some ways accurate – jungle, garage and house influences certainly turn the heat up on the xx’s typically downbeat style – but in other ways is a touch misleading. In defiance of its title, In Colour can at times be murky, minimalist and ghostly, offering up a distant and dislocated take on the last two decades or so of London club culture.
When The xx emerged back in 2009, much was made of the fact that a guitar band was employing the sparse dance music aesthetics more usually found on, say, a Burial record. Since then their beatmaker, and the main proponent behind those aesthetics, Jamie Smith, has built himself a sizeable DJ and producer/remixer career. And more than a simple change in direction, this debut album feels like the culmination of pretty much everything he's done up to this point in his career.First track 'Gosh' is a rowdy, bass-heavy club banger, while 'Sleep Sound' recalls the delicate musicality of Four Tet or Floating Points.
Jamie xx recently said this album "definitely informed the next xx album." Even the name marks a new chapter for the xx, a band whose entire aesthetic was built around monochrome gloom. Not that there wasn't a subtle beauty to the restrained, gothic minimalism, but a name like In Colour has rebirth written all over it, most notably with the bold burst of color that has replaced the usual "x" motif. Make no mistake: This is very obviously a Jamie xx album.
In the quiet time between The xx’s second and third albums, studio boffin Jamie xx wasn’t just lounging around eating Wotsits and brown M&Ms. Quite the contrary. With a series of 12”s (none of which appear on this debut), he pushed and stretched the club music he loved and which undoubtedly influenced his work in his “band” into less recognisable, weirder shapes.
In many ways, the debut album proper by xx producer Jamie Smith is yet another backward-looking record that calculatingly reconfigures the music of the past – something UK tune-makers, from Adele and Sam Smith on down the food chain, continue to make their stock-in-trade. But In Colour is no mere sepia-tinted nostalgia trip. It might be a kaleidoscopic 11-track tribute to raves long past, a paean to the styles Smith is too young to remember first-hand, and the incidental chatter of London pirate radio circa 1992 that he is too young to have heard – a direction presaged in last summer’s pre-album offering, All Under One Roof Raving.
For a band that are widely celebrated for their penchant for tight-knit minimalism and the noir, the embrace of a Rainbow Road’s worth of colour and noise is perhaps something of an unexpected sidestep in direction for the solo work of The xx’s producer, Jamie Smith, aka Jamie xx. That’s not to say that it’s been an unwelcome switch: as has already been demonstrated by the array of genre-hopping solo tracks and remixes for the likes of Adele, Gil Scott-Heron and Four Tet (who has a hand in ‘SeeSaw’ here), Smith has embraced a positively-kaleidoscopic and intercontinental approach to his electronic music that breaks free from the hush-hush serenity of The xx’s traditional output. In the six years since The xx first whispered their way into our hearts with their Mercury-winning debut album, Smith has successfully managed to concurrently establish himself as both an in-demand producer and touring DJ, with many ravers across the world worshipping at his turntable altar.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. This is not dance music. This is not for jumping up and down on. This is not the future soundtrack for the best nights of your life, nor an invitation to lose yourself within undulating basslines and a throng of euphoric lost souls. You need to ….
Much of the pre-release chatter around Jamie Smith's debut album centered on "I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)," an addictive, upbeat track with bubbly guest verses from Young Thug and a chorus from the dancehall singer Popcaan. It's a bouncy summertime song that's probably the best thing The xx member has released in his short solo career. But as exciting as it made In Colour out to be, it seems to have been a fluke: most of the record settles into the dance music-lite that Smith has been producing since "Far Nearer." As songs like "All Under One Roof Raving" make clear, Smith is obsessed with early UK dance music, and a good chunk of In Colour looks at rave history through a revisionist and overly sentimental lens.
Producer Jamie Smith, otherwise known as Jamie xx, is one of the most quietly influential artists of the last decade. The xx’s self-titled 2009 debut brokered a brilliant one-night stand between trip-hop and late-Aughts indie pop. A relationship further consummated by We’re New Here, Jamie xx’s 2011 collaboration with Gil Scott-Heron. It was a gorgeous 21st century sound — reverb suffused with breakbeats, pregnant pauses preempted by disembodied vocal samples, silence as a crucial musical instrument.
Jamie xx – In Colour (Young Turks)For a wonderful, fleeting moment in the wake of pop’s dubstep hijack at the end of the decade, Britain’s electronic music scene was a mess of infinite possibility. United by the thread of common origin – nights out at Plastic People for FWD>> and flickering pirate radio broadcasts, mainly – these producers were taking steps in a number of directions, sometimes all at once, but you could always tie them back together with a sonic thread. In 2015, they all seem to have stalled out in different ways.
Dance music is arguably going through the throes of some minor existential crisis, having started life as an illicit and genuinely underground sensation that now finds itself lumbered with the anodyne effect that mainstream acceptance inevitably has. The question that some DJs seem to be asking themselves between a hectic schedule of ministering to thousands from dripping warehouses to balearic beach sides is which way they should turn next: embrace hedonism as an end in itself, or shoot for something loftier and more ambitious. Records from George Fitzgerald, Pearson Sound and Four Tet might be taken as recent symptoms of this thirst for new ground, all perennial party starters now aiming for something more cerebral on record.
Better known to his mother as Jamie Smith, Jamie xx is essentially the one-man backline for London beat alchemists and modern Portishead inheritors the xx, a crate-digging omnivore and increasingly among the most in-demand remixers of his generation (Adele, Alicia Keys, plus the list essayed in the sidebar, among others). In parallel with that of his South London band—the school they all attended is featured in rom-com Love, Actually—is a career that has blossomed over the course of various tracks Jamie has not only repurposed for others, but has now fashioned as an emerging solo artist. In Colour finds him joined by xx mates Romy Madley Croft (the unsurprisingly xx-like and sealegs-inducing “Seesaw” and “Loud Places”) and Oliver Sim (“Stranger In A Room,” with circular synth programs that find the pair stretching their signature sound into trance-meets-Doors terrain), as well as artists such as Young Thug (“I Know There’s Gonna Be Good Times”) and Four Tet.
It would be far too easy to discuss Jamie xx’s In Colour in terms of pastiche. Certainly, pastiche is a factor. But it is not Jamie’s goal or an end to itself. If we discuss this record as electronica or a DJ record it’s a dull dead-end for our critical discourse as we are then doomed to lots of, hey, listen how this track combines Young Thug with reggae dub or how that one sounds like DJ Shadow and this one kind of Avalanches-y and suddenly we’re writing an RIYL press release.
I want to remember the days of drinking and doing illicit substances with friends, of having moments of micro-epiphanies. I want to see the night lights the hallucinatory flash of neon, the burning of cigarette smoke in my nostrils. As I wend my way down the street I come to a door behind which the tremors of bass utter their menacing subterranean growl.
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In his role shaping the beats and production for the xx, the English band of which he’s a member, Jamie xx has been adamant that nothing but the essentials are allowed. The xx’s songs are stark, spacious, with nothing out of place. After various collaborations, remixes, and a few singles under his own name, Jamie xx (born Jamie Smith) takes a similar approach, and center stage, on his debut solo album.
There is an obsession with 90s dance music right now that seems particularly strong among those who were barely out of preschool when rave culture was taking off. Last year The xx's Jamie Smith sampled artist Mark Leckey's short Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore for his ode to UK club culture, All Under One Roof Raving, and his debut solo album offers a similarly collage-like entry into the sounds that made that decade special. Rather than orient the listener inside the action, In Colour takes an outsider's view - unsurprising given that Smith is famously introverted.
At the zeitgeist of the indie electronic movement, Jamie Smith goes from the austere black and white of the minimalist London trio whose moniker doubles as his surname to the vivid In Colour of his solo debut. By doing so, the XX's beat chemist goes mainstream. Always one step from total ruin, mysterious producer Burial – perhaps this 26-year-old UK sound manipulator's closest peer in Thaumaturgy – works the damp, muddled edges of sonic ambiguity.
Anyone who heard Jamie xx’s “All Under One Roof Raving” last year knows that The xx percussionist has a reverent curiosity in before-his-time ’90s rave culture. Anyone who checked out his 2011 remix of Gil Scott-Heron’s I’m New Here (titled We’re New Here) also got a sense of his strong interest in fusing R&B styles with modern electronica. Both of those pursuits come together for his absorbing solo debut, In Colour, an album carefully informed by the early mainstream spread of EDM but held within the confines of a minimalist construction.
Jamie xx's debut solo album is influenced by his formative experiences in London's clubs, or at least that's what he wants you to think. Over a succession of interviews, The xx's primary beatmaker has spent his time discussing the touring that took him away from his home city and ultimately formed the catalyst for many of the tracks that make up In Colour. "I felt like I was missing out, like London was disappearing while I was away," he told The Fader's Ruth Saxelby, while, speaking to Philip Sherburne over at Pitchfork, he said: "Listening to music that reminded me of home was a good way to feel happy about feeling sad.