THE XX has become synonymous with low key, smoke filled, atmosphere soaked indie pop. One feature of the band is the interplay between Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim. Both interject with one another in a conversational to and fro on the majority of the trio’s songs.
Squint long and hard enough and you’ll see on stage, amidst the dry ice, a third Londoner, bopping and keying away. Now, Jamie Smith has decided to break from the shadows of his band – whose first two albums he produced, and release his first solo album.
Deeply engrossed in underground club culture, In Colour is a culmination of six years of scraps that Jamie has collected. A rhythm here, a bassline there, a loop over here.
Many of the songs won’t be new to those who have followed Smith’s solo career. Jamie is a collagist. On In Colour he collects and then re-layers, reassembles and reinvents.
As if he has gone into his box of Lego, got an assortment of bricks out from varying sets and then carefully and consciously decided to arrange them into a cohesive structure.
The most incredible thing about In Colour is that despite a variety of sounds and sonic waves, it beats its own unique soul. By the time Girl, which samples Brian Wilson and also features clips of Channel 4 drama Top Boy, comes to a close Smith has packaged six years of his dancefloor travails into a shiny disco ball.
The euphoric synth line raises opening track Gosh to a whole different energy stratosphere that The xx are yet to grace. In fact the whole album has a more fleet footed nature to it in comparison to the soft self-conscious steps preferred by the trio.
Occasional appearances from the steel-pan drum bring a sense of euphoric dancefloor delirium to the party.
James Blake may take all the plaudits for post-dubstep pretentiousness. Yet it was perhaps Jamie xx who laid the most indelible mark on the genre with his remixing of Gil Scott Heron’s valedictory album I’m New Here.
There’s also an indicator as to what The xx’s next outing might sound like, if they decided to add colour, with the pulsating, upbeat yet still atmospheric Loud Places featuring Romy. Her soft vocal bouncing of the tinny synth sounds effervescently.
There’s even an appearance by Oliver Sim though without Romy to bounce off of he feels unassured. But this isn’t an xx album, it isn’t a Sim or Croft album. This is about Smith. Once again his ear for spotting a synth line then changing it up with varying degrees of subtlety makes Stranger in a Room a delight.
In Colour is far from a flawless album though. I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times) feels like an addition just to add commercial appeal to the album. Smith samples the Persuasions and the jangly synth line is upbeat but confused, with a Jamaican Dancehall/Rap vibe it feels out of place and lost. A far better choice would have been Far Nearer or All Under One Roof Raving, both which didn’t make the final cut.
If there was any doubt, and there shouldn’t have been after We’re New Here, about Jamie’s production ability, then In Colour sees to that with gusto.