Despite his being the walking embodiment of the pubescent awkwardness, the loner kid who scribbled poetry and song lyrics onto his jeans, and never made eye contact, and always had headphones on, despite all of that, Jamie xx has a wealth of friends and collaborators. Chief among those in terms of time and appearances are Romy Madley Croft, a bandmate from the xx, and Kieran Hebden, aka Four Tet.
Where his work with Romy is all soft lines and smoothed edges, there is a stuttered jaggedness with Four Tet. In whatever incarnation, Jamie’s music strikes a decisive balance between simplicity and complexity, and it is imbued with a strong sense of restraint. The xx’s “Coexist” felt like a dance record being asked to tell its story with “just the facts” and a gun to its head. It was a beautiful record, but it felt like it was a half beat away from busting out in a four-on-the-floor and yelling, “I wanna dance!”
Maybe Jamie just wanted to save that moment for his solo record. Maybe “Coexist” was him practicing his crafting a simple and honest album without gimmicks or cheap tricks. In many ways, a break is just that, and the more an artist resorts to that, the more they have to, and they weave themselves a trap. If that was Jamie Smith’s goal, then I say he earned his merit badge.
Even on “In Colour,” there is still a subdued beat and tightened rhythm with a heart full of house. Take “SeeSaw,” for instance. Parts of the song are perfectly clear, but the majority of the song sounds like you’re hearing it through the headphones of somebody sitting next to you. That’s the part of the song where most of the life is, where the manic beat and janky synth lines, and Romy’s piecemeal crooning. I know this sounds like I feel cheated by the mixing, and I assure you, just the opposite is true. I respect his decisions to craft a unique dynamic range and arrangement. It’s incredible because all of that is intentional and showcases his craft.
But, along comes Four Tet again, poking holes in Jamie’s tight ship. Here comes that four-on-the-floor beat, changing the original’s manic heart into a breakbeat, and stretches the song across verse and chorus into a long, slow, thrusting heartbeat. The song follows the basic bass-line, and all the parts follow in seemingly drunken, but strangely organized undulations.
If you haven’t seen Jamie touring behind “In Colour” yet, you should make sure to catch him this time through. If you’ve already seen him, then you’ll surely be lining up to do so again. Especially his show opening up for Chromeo at Red Rocks in Denver this coming June, which could easily be the show of the summer. I’m not afraid to call it this early, because they’re both magical shows and Red Rocks is one of the most beautiful venues on earth. After that show and his appearance at Governor’s Ball in New York, he heads back to the UK for a break and a string of headlining gigs and European festival dates.
US Summer Festival Appearances:
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