Jamie xx: In Colour (XL)

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Jamie xx: The Rest is Noise
Jamie xx: In Colour (XL)

This debut solo album by the boffin behind The xx (and an influential and innovative remixer) joins a number of very intersting dots in British dance and ambient pop of the past few decades.

Few "dance" albums would dare place a lowkey piece entitled Sleep Sound -- a horizontally laidback piece with a subtle sample from the Four Freshmen -- second up, but this is an album where risks are taken, the ear is diverted into new but oddly familiar areas (Loud Places ) and the whole is effortlessly greater than the sum of its many parts.

Unless you check the small print you wouldn't really know that among the many samples are pieces from Hugh Masekela, the Persuasions (how retro is that?), Freeeze, The Whitest Boy Alive and more. But they are so deftly threaded through the breakbeats and vocals by Romy Madley Croft (from The xx) that they simply form part of the aural tapestry.

At the midpoint is a standout: the unsettling Stranger in a Room featuring xx singer Oliver Sim who brings a cool dyspepsia over a soundbed that is both enticingly warm and yet disconcerting. It leads neatly into the space-ambience opening overs of the increasingly urgent Hold Tight.

And the upward trajectory of the album is evident from there on with Romy again on the upbeat clubland handclap-then-quiet of Loud Places, the hip-hop direction of I Know There's Gonna Be Good Times . . .  

For the first half however In Colour is like dialed-down Flying Lotus or ethereal Portishead, less about dance than the notion of dance, announcing itself as a scrupulously polite album as much for when you are preparing dinner as hosting a dinner party.

By the final third a few bottles have been emptied, plates cleared away and the chairs pushed back for a quarter hour of those good times, before someone suggests another glass or two and . . . 

Very clever. 

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