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Jimmy Edgar
XXX Iain Moffat , August 30th, 2010 09:55

The world may have turned a good few times since 1999, but the stranglehold that Mr Nelson and his accomplices hold on modern music grows progressively tighter by the year: in the last six months alone, such fine albums as Grum's Heartbeats and O'Spada's Pay Off have taken colossal gulps of Minneapolitan air, while even singles as ostensibly diverse as Mr Flash's 'Domino Part A' and Everything Everything's 'My KZ Ur BF' are significantly subsisting on a diet of Jam and Lewis. Given all of that, and the fact that there's prior evidence of a Warp wunderkind hijacking the soul train with spectacular results – Jamie Lidell's form might have become more variable since, but Multiply remains one of the last decade's great lost jewels – who can blame Jimmy Edgar for getting in on the act?

But is that all it is – an act? Well, launching his latest album – and first for the often-endearing K7! - with a single called 'Hot, Raw, Sex' produces two somewhat contrasting conclusions. On one hand, it's entirely possible that he genuinely believes this to be a sincerely carnal endeavour - even, dare we suggest, extended coitus in its own right. Then again, maybe he's familiar with the work of French and Saunders and we're supposed to treat the whole thing as a metaphorical combination of an arched eyebrow and a saucy wink; no mean feat, we're sure you'd agree. Odd thing is, though, that repeated listens to the entire album fail to settle the matter one way or the other.

What we can confirm, though, is that the track itself is a terrific representation of XXX at its absolute best: there's a strong thread of pre-Revolution-ary proto-house running through it, and its near-Kraftwerkian metronomy and callbacks to the squiggled silliness of disco's blippy re-hurrah make it somewhat akin to what his folks might've been dancing to on the night of his early-mid-80s conception were they of a hipsterish bent or attuned to metropolitan pirates. Indeed, it's part of a decidedly attractive opening run; 'Function Of Your Love' is a terrifically restrained and tantalisingly minimal slab of electro-fuelled bash-thwock, while the vocals throughout the initial trilogy recall not only the way that Sebastien Tellier conjures up both bona fide and euphemistic glamour on 'Kilometer' but also the forward-thinking modulations of Zapp.

Surely, then, squandering such inviting foreplay would seem like a massive exercise in missed opportunity, and yet that's precisely what happens. Sadly, Edgar swiftly becomes lost in the blurry enticements of his own making, leading to any number of tracks whose focus and function are puzzlingly unclear. 'Rewind, Stop That Tape' feels rather closer to comfortable territory in places – frankly, those early threats to turn into a new imagining of 'Sueno Latino' are a cruel tease – but gets lost in jazz politeness that's rude in all the wrong ways. 'Physical Motion' is slothful almost to the point of absurdity and has its intentions punctured by occasional keyboard stabs that are drastically wide of the mark in terms of capturing any retro cachet, and, worst of all, 'One Twenty Detail' breaks the mood entirely by positioning itself as a near-interminable pastiche of the Aphex Twin at his laziest remixing a deep house torching of first album Art Of Noise, which actually sounds far more exciting in theory.

Admittedly, there are moments to enjoy later – 'Push' is a passable plea for secondhand sleaze via its trading on the whispery menace of the Ying Yang Twins 'Wait', 'Midnite Fone Calls' does well to position itself back in Princeian territory (taking on the louche luxuriation of 'Insatiable' in this instance), and finale 'Vibration' is a spartan, circle-squaring affair that reaches for the unadorned directness of nascent hip-hop and only lets itself down by virtue of a clumsy crescendo – but by then the rhythm's gone to pot. Ultimately, XXX's trouble is that it's too pleased with – not to mention pleasured by – itself, and as a result it's never going to arouse all the affection it's after.

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