There are certain records that appeal to audiences for obvious reasons, they speak to common needs, have tangible reasons for sounding the way they do and meet / fail / surpass our expectations. This is no such record. With ‘xx’ I struggle to identify a root influence, a starting point or an initial ideology set by the band. Not to sound like an abstract minded, spaced-out earth-child type but it almost feels as though The xx have stumbled upon this beautifully romantic sound through the power of combined celestial energies. Images of an intimate relationship between vocal duo Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim are spawned though the complimentary comforting tone of both voices and the back and forth nature of their lyrics. The cherished vocals are set against an eerily sparse backing of guitar, bass and drum machine/samples, adding unique personality to the sound.
The xx from London comprise of Romy Madley Croft (Vocals/Guitar), Oliver Sim (Vocals/Bass), Baria Quershi (Guitar) and Jamie Smith (Drums/Samples). On their MySpace page it states their influences as being from Aaliyah to CocoRosie, Rihanna to The Cure, Missy Elliot to Chromatics, The Kills to Ginuwine, Pixies to Mariah Carey and Justin Timberlake to Tracy + The Plastics – Thus justifying my earlier failure to identify the bands ‘root influence’. I’m sure The xx do have an affinity for the RnB acts mentioned above, but I find it hard to see where such an affinity influences their sound – except maybe in the soft soulful crooning of Oliver Sim.
Opening track simply entitled ‘Intro’ is an early instrumental example of the nature of xx, it’s percussion and atmospheric samples are akin to a DJ Shadow production. Reverb smothered guitar and drums that echo into the vast expanse. ‘VCR’ brings an introduction to the simple yet meaningful lyrics or Madley Croft and Sim – a track driven by a rhythmic guitar riff, pulsating kick drum and twinkling xylophone percussion. The xx’s stripped down playing style compliments the rhythmic lyrics, evident in ‘Crystalised’ in particular. ‘Shelter’ begins with simple thumbed bass guitar and psychedelic chimes and builds into a quietly anthemic monster with the occasional stomp of rib-cage-quivering sub bass. ’Basic Space’ is an effortlessly elegant track that sets in motion with simple light repetitive percussion and rumbling bass drum but builds into probably the most dance floor friendly beat on the album.
At this moment in time I’m of the opinion that this is one of the best things I’ve heard this year. That’s mainly due to the fact that I’ve been balls deep in it for the last couple of days but each time I listen, I hear something new; a new element, a new layer, a new groove. There’s definitely a time and a place for The xx, it requires heaps of attention resulting in a somewhat introverted listening experience. This is far from a negative element, in fact it’s the whole charm of the record, it’s four musicians personalities combined to form one captivating collection of music.
The xx are set to play Evol @ Korova, Liverpool on October 6th. Check the Evol MySpace for details.