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Jamie xx
In Colour Christian Eede , June 1st, 2015 19:45

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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." That music, that he primarily heard at well-storied club nights such as FWD and Floating Points' You're A Melody, makes up the chief reference point for In Colour's overall oeuvre, as various vocal samples weave in and out from track to track. They’re tacked on, so as to seemingly provide sonic confirmation of Jamie Smith's intentions.

Where the music played at the aforementioned nights and the scenes that splintered off from them, as Smith describes, formed some of the most exhilarating, pivotal moments of London's nightlife last decade, In Colour fails to capture any of the potential thrill that comes with a night out in the city he so missed while absent from it. It doesn't even encapsulate the pre-night buzz and anticipation or the post-club regret and comedown. What is offered instead is a collection of sexless, sonically conservative tracks overwrought in bass and nostalgia, and largely void of personality – club music for the neoliberal age. These experiences, at nights such as FWD>> and clubs like Plastic People, seem to form mere marketing fodder in order to make In Colour appear more interesting than it is.

Following on from last year's Mark Leckey sampling 'All Under One Roof Raving', album opener 'Gosh' once again slathers on the rave signifiers with sledgehammer subtlety (see also: 'Hold Tight'), with its breakbeat-indebted drum pattern and repeated vocal sample of "Oh my gosh" lifted from 90s BBC Radio 1 pilot One In The Jungle. By track two, 'Sleep Sound', the jokes start to write themselves, and that's the trouble with In Colour, just how overwhelmingly inoffensive it is, failing to deliver on both those prime club influences and Smith's background as part of The xx.

One of Smith's greatest abilities, as part of The xx, has continually been his eye for restraint and minimalism, a nous that cooly allows bandmates Romy Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim to play off against each other and bring that key dynamic between the two's back and forth vocals to the fore. Showing up on 'Seesaw', however, Madley-Croft's characteristically introspective vocal is drowned out by a clattering, by-the-numbers drum pattern and a melody cynically crafted to punctuate hands-in-the-air moments as Smith makes his solo step-up to this summer's festival stages. Appearing on 'Stranger In A Room', Sim fares slightly better, his low-register lilt given breathing room by hushed guitars typical of The xx as a whole unit, though it may leave you questioning what makes it more befitting of Smith's debut album than as an offcut, at best, on a The xx album.

Four tracks in and Smith introduces his trusty steel pans for the first time – certainly naming the track 'Obvs' suggests he is far more open to expressing his sense of humour than let on by the introverted reputation he has earned from interviewers. Again, it's innocuous, retreading already well-travelled territory. The steel pans rear their head again on the Young Thug and Popcaan-assisted 'I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)'. Thugger's captivating idosyncrasies significantly carry proceedings, though to Smith's credit, the link-up is a relatively inspired affair among the murk and safety of much of its surroundings. Coming ahead of it, 'Loud Places', Madley-Croft's second guest contribution, opens with a field recording from Plastic People. Where her vocal is drowned out on 'Seesaw', 'Loud Places' comes closest to seizing on that aforementioned club atmosphere, but rather what takes place away from the club as well as in it ("I go to loud places, To search for someone […] Who will take me home"). Madley-Croft attempts to meet the expectations of her subject, resigning herself in the track's outro: "You're in ecstasy without me, When you come down, I won't be around." Like much of the rest of Smith's debut however, it is difficult to find the colour hinted at by the album's title and his own repeated proclamations in interviews that, referencing The xx, "I wanted to show that we're not moody."

What doesn't sit particularly right though, is that for an album so apparently rooted in the diversity and spaces of London's nightlife, Smith has been all too reluctant to take on serious discussions such as those involving politics, recently telling Lisa Blanning that "I never talk about political stuff in interviews." Sure, not everybody has to offer a stream of political consciousness through their work and their platform as a musician, but when taken in tandem with a nightlife scene that is facing the effects of widespread gentrification and governmental crackdowns, perhaps it is time to put your head above the parapet, particularly when the primary source for your debut album lies in that scene and its prosperity. Reflecting this, In Colour is ultimately too tidy and, Young Thug features aside, afraid to take risks, and is therefore all the more beige for it. If Foxtons did club music...

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Jun 1, 2015 1:15pm

Finally a review of this album that actually nails it. Inoffensive and forgettable club-inspired music so far removed from an actual club it's a bit of a joke.

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Jun 1, 2015 1:56pm

what an awfully written review

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Tommy Regan
Jun 1, 2015 2:02pm

Maybe I'm listening more generously because this album is cushioning a fairly brutal comedown today but it sounds pretty lovely to me, and I honestly don't fucking care how faithfully it represents the sound of particular clubs in London - I don't live in that city and I haven't been to those clubs. You might have a point about its Mobylike appeal to advertisers and in time maybe every single track on this will score a spot for BT or Hyundai but for now I'm finding this record a pleasure, sucker that I am.

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Jun 1, 2015 2:49pm

Sounds like diet coke

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Jun 1, 2015 3:00pm

"club music for the neoliberal age" - v interesting idea and one that I considered Jamie xx etc always had the potential to slip into in their less refined, inspired moments. I hope you're wrong!

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Julian Bond
Jun 1, 2015 3:22pm

Give it 10 years and it'll be background music on BBC2 gardening programmes.

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Jun 1, 2015 4:57pm

I didn't really think of this album as an actual piece of underground rave music, so on that count I agree that some of the press is ridiculous -- but as a pop record rooted in those sounds I like In Colour very much. I don't have any personal investment in the relationship between this record and its source material, but I found that the outcome hit the pleasure triggers in a very satisfying way and didn't overstay its welcome, and I'm looking forward to hearing some of these tunes played out. Not all of us are crate digging for white labels everyday, you know?

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Jun 1, 2015 5:03pm

In reply to TDC:

Come to think of it, I feel basically the same way about Jamie xx's bad reviews as I did about Future Brown's bad reviews: I get the argument, intellectually, but I like the music enough that I don't really care.

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Jun 1, 2015 5:45pm

In reply to Annabelle:

I was thinking Ribena, but I think you've nailed it. It's basically the antithesis of another album released on the same day - Nozinja Lodge - which is an actual dance record. Jamie xx is a decent DJ and knows his stuff in regards to dance music, but this is a mid-tempo, middle-of-the-road, middle-class dilution of interesting music. Actually, that might be a tad harsh as I like some of the tracks, but overall it lacks the bite/edge/balls to elevate it above an ambient accompaniment for clothes shopping or beds for MOTD goal of the month segments.

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Jun 1, 2015 6:28pm

Well, don't really care what it misrepresents or nails it misses trying to allegedly hit, it's been hammered in our office for a full week, and it's been universally given the thumbs up.
And yes, while I'd love to play Death Grips, or Lightning Bolt, in the office, I can't, so there has to be an element of aural massaging to the selections, which is probably what I like about it, it's use of space, it doesn't pummel you, or overly soothe.
If Eno had released this, you'd be falling over yourselves dishing out plaudits.

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Tim Clarke
Jun 2, 2015 12:18am

Thank you for a review that runs counter to everything else I've read. After all the 9/10s it's been getting elsewhere, I was expecting to be bowled over by this record, but it's tasteful, boring, coffee table bollocks.

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Jun 2, 2015 1:08am

well, I haven't heard a single track of this album, but this review gave me a nice chuckle. I think the xx are one of the most over-rated bands of the past couple decades, really. jeeeeezuz, y'all, go listen to Young Marble Giants and get the real thing. I have heard lots of tracks produced/worked on by this guy, and I just don't get it. nothing extraordinary or particularly noteworthy or interesting. it's just there, and in the current "I like everything, and technically, this is 'something'." cultural milieu, the non-extraordinary things that rise to the top for no apparent reason always confuse me. bon iver, sharon van etten, taylor swift, the xx, whoever - they are the lionel richies, phil collinses, simple minds of their time. people listen back and just say "what the fuck were the people who bought this on..?" none of it's that horrible, its just that none of it's extraordinary but is treated as thought it is, and as thought its status as such is self-evident. considering how much great music is actually being made today, I gets confused.

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Jun 2, 2015 2:32am

Wow. This guy just hates this album because it's getting positive reception. It's like the 5 people that gave Mad Max negative reviews. I've listened to this album and I thought it was really good. Definitely up there with artists like Burial.

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Jun 2, 2015 5:33am

Snarky tier-list of negative review of 'In Colou':

Boomkat > RA > The Quietus.

tQ had a good go with the neolibralism bit, but was trumped by Boomkat's killer social angle (see: 'yummy mummies' and 'waitrose fridge'). RA just tips it over tQ due to Ryce's writing, those last couple of lines, and the comments section.

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Jun 2, 2015 11:12am

Jamie xx is a legend

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Jun 2, 2015 11:53am

For what it's worth, I thought reviewer Christian Eede's points on Jamie XX's album were valid and I appreciated that he went against the grain (i.e., the majority of music critic's reviews – see Metacritic) in his assessment. Sometimes it's nice to see both sides of the coin in order to formulate ones own opinion. Thank you, Mr. Eede.

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Jun 2, 2015 12:32pm

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but after listening to this record I'd say this is going to sound great on an evening when we finally get a good dose of sunshine.

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Jun 2, 2015 12:35pm

"club-inspired music so far removed from an actual club"

Yes, it is removed, indeed. All the better of.

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Jun 2, 2015 12:36pm

In reply to underlander:

...all the better FOR, if course.
The further - the better.

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Jun 2, 2015 12:49pm

Also, political stuff != serious discussion, epsecially when it comes to musician.
But then... you do know that, right?

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Jun 2, 2015 3:40pm

In reply to Nick:

so true. bandwagon went thataway... and was funnier before.

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Jun 2, 2015 4:55pm

You know, that last paragraph, this "it is time to put your head above the parapet, particularly when the primary source for your debut album lies in that scene and its prosperity" thing...

I mean, I don't really get it - is this attitude something purely British or not?

See, I don't care if the review is not all five-star-wow-what-a-debut! style, that's what reviews are being written for - to declare an opinion. But does Jamie's political position or PRESUMED lack thereof inform this writing or I did misunderstand something in the end?

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Jun 3, 2015 12:54pm

'we're new here' was far more politically interesting and poignant as a record than 'in colour'. perhaps it owes that to gil scott heron's musings, but jamie has plenty of material to sample amongst the rave tapes of youtube to use as the 'voice' of songs instead of the yawn-centric xx members. instrumentally, we're new here was also far more complex and entertaining, with ballads, house tracks, dub tracks and jazz interludes all superior to this album's vanilla tracks.

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Julian Bond
Jun 3, 2015 1:00pm

I think if I'd been given a free VIP ticket to Glastonbury. And I was meeting a bunch of friends up near Park Stage on Friday night. And I was prepared to hike it over from Caribou at West Holts earlier, I'd be quite pleased that it turned out it was The XX that was playing. And so something that wasn't completely shit. And sure enough, Jamie XX, 21:30 Friday night, Park Stage, Glastonbury 2015.

Now all I need is the free VIP ticket.

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Jun 3, 2015 2:04pm

In reply to kenneth_branagh:

Vanilla isn't synonymous with boring or bad. It's delicious. Fuck you.

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George Byrne
Jun 4, 2015 9:37am

"In Colour fails to capture any of the potential thrill that comes with a night out in the city he so missed while absent from it. It doesn't even encapsulate the pre-night buzz and anticipation or the post-club regret and comedown. What is offered instead is a collection of sexless, sonically conservative tracks overwrought in bass and nostalgia, and largely void of personality – club music for the neoliberal age. These experiences, at nights such as FWD>> and clubs like Plastic People, seem to form mere marketing fodder in order to make In Colour appear more interesting than it is."

I don't agree with this at all. In Colour isn't a dance record - it's an album made by a talented indie musician who's steeped in dance culture and the music of London. It was never gonna sound like something off Warp and nor should it. As an album of tunes assembled using the raw materials of the city's club scene it's very good. Not as great as some of the reviews claim it is, but what I like about it is that it's in keeping with The xx's style. It's music for outsiders. Jamie xx is an outsider to the environment he's been inspired by. I love that contradiction.

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George Byrne
Jun 4, 2015 10:36am

In reply to :

Yeah, there's a lot of good points in that. The only thing I'd say is that the Sam Smith comparison doesn't hold water because Sam Smith is just so offensively shite, full stop. It's nothing to do with his rehashing of soul - it's to do with the fact that he does it so fucking badly.

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Matt Paradise
Jun 4, 2015 12:05pm

Hi Cristian,

Music called, it said to tell you that you're a cunt.

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George Byrne
Jun 4, 2015 12:23pm

In reply to Matt Paradise:

"Matt Paradise" - any relation to "Carpet World"?

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Jun 4, 2015 2:15pm

In reply to Chad:

Isn't the 'Vanilla' term (rightly or wrongly) more about it being easy to like.

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Jun 9, 2015 1:02am

This is a decent review and I agree with most of it, this is basically just a watered down version of what Four Tet has been doing for the last 5 or 6 years. However, the writer chides him for not being political then uses the line "club music for the neoliberal age". I would love to hear his definition of "neoliberal", I assume he thinks it means "a bunch of stuff that I don't like."

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Timothy Dannenhoffer
Feb 3, 2016 3:30am

In reply to onceler:

onceler, I just got done listening to two Young Marble Giants songs over on youtube - THAT was some atrocious music.

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