Women in Music 2019

Jamie XX Taps Dance Music’s Past for Wildly Imaginative Debut ‘In Colour’: Album Review

Jamie xx
Dance
4.5

Jamie xx is 26 years old, which means he was barely out of diapers during the heyday of '90s U.K. rave culture, which provides the heart, soul and inspiration for his jaw-dropping solo debut, In Colour. The xx member (real name: Jamie Smith) reportedly combed through videos from the era on YouTube, experiencing it in a way that generations before him could not: all at once, chopped up, voyeuristically and set to the best music. This, conveniently, describes the rush of hearing In Colour, an ambitious collage of dance music's most artistically exciting decade, assembled with maximum TLC by a visionary who inherited its legacy.

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Pockmarked by bits of dialogue from the era's radio shows and documentaries, the record leaves no doubt as to its source material, and Jamie xx is among other U.K. electronic-dance acts, such as Disclosure and Four Tet, that are tapping the genre's past to forge its future. But no one has nailed it quite like this. Like a lover with a dark secret, the music is both supple and dangerous. "Sleep Sound" is deep house with a narcotic edge, its low-end thrum surging in and out. From the dirty drum'n'bass of "Seesaw" to the lysergic grind of "Hold Tight," the songs are haunted by the spirits of Aphex Twin, The Orb and LTJ Bukem. The album's high point, "Loud Places," combines xx bandmate Romy Madley Croft's stirring singsong whisper with a '70s disco sample and ringing guitars for the ultimate slice of dancefloor euphoria. Even outlier "I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)," featuring ­rapper Young Thug and dancehall singer Popcaan, has a chill-room whiff to it.

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For as erudite as it is, though, In Colour doesn't require footnotes to enjoy -- it's first and ­foremost a dance record. What Jamie xx borrows most from rave culture is its fervor, that feeling that a shared, if fleeting, vision of utopia can be found between the beats. One of his early solo singles was "All Under One Roof Raving"; it's not included on In Colour, but the title works ­perfectly as a mission statement.

This story originally appeared in the June 13 issue of Billboard.

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