Album review: Jamie xx – In Colour

Jamie xx - In Colour

In Colour, the surreal debut from Jamie xx, is simply incandescent to the ears. It is animalistic. Rhythmic. Perhaps a kaleidoscopic representation of modern British dance. But most importantly, it establishes Jamie Smith as a capable and imaginative solo artist and producer, beyond his beginnings as the percussionist of internationally successful act, The xx.

Jamie xx splashes sounds like colours in an Impressionist painting. Opening track ‘Gosh’ is haunting. The beat is grating and metallic; it kicks and screams a little. The layers build into an enveloping climax, only to be broken back down again. Like this, in waves, the rest of the album proceeds.

‘Sleepsound’ features vocoded voices pulsating in and out. Trippy polythythms are set off like an unhinged music box. Of particular note is his choice of instruments, especially in ‘Obvs’. Instead of the conventional synthesisors, Jamie has opted for steel drums and xylophones to pierce through the washy veil of the sub-bass and house beat. In every way possible, Jamie has made decisions that surprise and delight.

What is perhaps the most surprising track of all is ‘I know There’s Gonna be Good Times’. Through the wave of experimental, through-composed tracks on this album, a clearcut hip hop song emerges fully-formed and fully-realised. Jamie reaches zenith in this lead single, with an undeniably strong dancehall flavour thanks to featured Jamaican artist Popcaan and American rapper Young Thug.

Just like his stage name pays homage to his roots in The xx, Jamie pays homage to the band by featuring members Oliver Sim in ‘Stranger in a Room’ and Romy Madley Croft in ‘Loud Places’. The former track juxtaposes unrefined vocals against a produced backdrop. In the latter, the lead vocals drift in and out of the limelight, sometimes overtaken by the backing vocals and other noises.

‘The Rest Is Noise’ is, to me, a celebration of sound-diversity. It begins pleasantly before falling into depths of eeriness, finally bursting into an ethereal wash of sirens. It sounds like the perfect soundtrack to an indie side-scroller game set in a fantasy world.

‘Seesaw’ is a velvety gem. I love how the female pop vocals are so subtle in the mix and treated with high reverb. This song is like a dream; it is like a pop song that has evaded the mind’s capture. But by far my personal favourite is ‘Girl’ (and it could be yours too). From the insane vocal treatment to the funky bass, In Colour ends on an extremely high note.

The album leaves me exhausted as I try desperately to latch onto anything remotely safe or cliched – but there was hardly anything of that nature. Jamie teases with familiar concepts, only to hide them again. Every listen offers a new perspective. Each new listen unveils yet another layer. Jamie xx’s In Colour is a rainbow of sounds.

In Colour is released this Friday 29th May via Young Turks / Remote Control Records.

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Words by Chloe Keung