Year 2009 September. Flight Madrid - Berlin. Magacine. Something new. Brit music. Doble X, The XX.
And it is there where we will start this suggestive trip we are proposing you during the next lines: among silences, whisperings and the canned beating of drumboxes…
A little ancient record store, an antique cinema, buildings of soviet origin. East Berlin, Jew zone. Independent, electronic music. Time to wander… And just there… The XX. Unknown quantities to solve. "Confoundingly good", Uncut. Headphones, volume, and time to analyze the double equation.
The info came at the same time my ears received those inspiring beats called “Intro”. Play, please…
Track by track, that grows up (which is much to say). Skeleton songs, almost drafts. Guitar essence (if you prefer a cooking simile), with references to 80s dark pop. Bass guitars, like spheres which exploit the taste. Beats cut with sharp knives. Voices? Barely whispers… Romy Madley and Oliver Sim playing to deconstruct the boy/girl duet. Silences, pauses and more whispers. Soundtracks for films / series imagined by David Lynch.
If less is more, the rhythms suggested by Jamie Smith (Jamie XX) are dance steps in the living room. Magic was there. And I say more: magic stays there.
The XX, their first álbum, and specially their A side, still stands -at least for me- as one of the main sounds in what we have seen of the 21st century.
Shape is kept. Change of colours. White by black. X in black (or bright grey?) beats white. Brightness -despite all- facing the starting matt. Dancing rhythms but without leaving the rooms, on perhaps from that terrace where you can enjoy dusk or dawn indistinctively. You are young and still alive. From the whisper of the beginning, we are gaining voice. Silence begins to fade in favour of growing beats. The song builds itself and gains weight.
Slight changes for three intense years. The XX is the great revelation of British pop. Surgical beats, extreme precission. The essence keeps intact. Songs grow to darken the soul. The Coexist, 2012, starts marvellously with a succesion of outstanding songs. From Angel to Sunset, everything flows inspiringly, attractively.
Who dares to push stop? From there on, singles and remix singles. Raw dance.
Such a long time for a band with just two albums (and for the industry needs). What is going to happen??? “On Hold”, first single, doesn’t hide the cards. Catching song. The dance floor is not your living room anymore. It is the club where you dance, sweat and let yourself go… “Say Something Loving”, second song, leaves you colder. Everything is so recognizable, but so perfect. The voices leave out the whispering to be taken by the Jamie XX’s bases, shaper and more present than ever.
I see you. 2017.
The cover, with that silver lining confuses us, but it also seems to indicate that…” (Sorry, i can’t continue: “Dangerous” snatches my attention… On the run, potent, incisive start. I love it. It reminds me to the beginning of other captivating records, so I dive into it. “Lips”. Stances seem to shrink. The dish -coming back to the cooking simile- is full of ingredients, tastes and even choruses!!! The essence? The record regains atmosphere and smells in “A Violent Noise”, coming very close to Portishead’s “Performance”. The first side of the album is opened and closed with the same musical reference.
The second part of the album, even more danceable and more catching. Songs that are freely taken by the rhythm Jamie imposes: more complex rhythms until we get to “In Colour”. More than enjoyable.
Short steps. Silver tones with the reflection of the trio. Is “I See You” a reflection of The XX?
Silence was murdered.
Seven years after the first meeting and things have changed: our gazes are different, distant, on the dance floor. Our silences have lost space, sound layers which give brightness and pace to the melodies. Sweetener to cauterize the wounds of previous combats. Song versus rhythm; air guitars versus bass guitar in dense foam; voices and choirs facing whisperings. Pop duets. I like the double-voice whispers. Production and magic, the magic of why you feel transported, the magic of why you like this, you got trapped, even seven years later. Rhythm instead of surgery, light against silence… Silence has died.
Ps.: It seemed a good idea to close this tour through The XX with the orchestral adaptation of their songs, accompanied by the BBC Philarmonic Orchestra. The essence stills stands on, the details keep their space and don’t weigh. This is not orchestral music: it’s pure The XX. Enjoy it!!!