I’m gallery sitting for a Robert Motherwell exhibit and, instead of stating my opinion on his work, I’ll just say there’s some art I don’t get. I’ve offered a friend some feedback on a poem he wrote, messed around with some features new to the blog (holla at our FB page), started a poem of my own (even posted part of it to Insta—no shame), read, and ordered some gifts from Amazon. When I gallery sit, I really try to be productive in terms of my personal work and life. I’m getting paid to sit here so may as well, right? But today I’m not quite with it. My mind keeps wandering and I’m wishing I were out basking in the sun. So naturally, since I can’t concentrate, I waste time on social media. And to my extreme delight, I find a Pitchfork post that announces Jamie xx’s debut solo album, In Colour, can be streamed with an accompanying video by Rose Pilkington on iTunes.
And holy hell is it an experience. Within the first few seconds, I’m wondering, “Can I really sit through 40 minutes of this sober?” But within a few more seconds of it, I’m glued—eyes and ears—to the screen.
The first two tracks, previously released as singles, are familiar, as is the visual. Jamie’s singular, signature rectangle floats about the screen. But as the album continues, the colors change and the perspective shifts and the shape multiplies, revealing its many complexities and identities (Did you know that a rectangle is also a square and triangle and line and cross and THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS CERTAINTY?!?!). Every visual matches perfectly with the music and the transitions are subtle, but clear. Before I know it, I’m in a god damn trance! And yes, I am still sober.
The album reflects this visual. The tracks are actually quite versatile, but due to Jamie’s genius production you never notice the vast variation in types of tunes he’s arranged together. You’ve got the three tracks that feature his xx bandmates and sound as you’d expect them to: excellently intimate, quietly soulful, xx-y. But then you also have the recently released (and controversial—though, it’s 2015, are we really going to go at it about sampling music?) “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” featuring Young Thug and Popcaan, a rowdy track that throws back to the Persuasions’ “Good Times” with a musically historically-informed and -influenced modern twist. This Brit uses steel drums to put a tropical dancy yet dazed spin on an a capella gospel song. (Research the origin on British punk rock; this has happened before!) The result is a jam you know without a doubt you’re gonna be having some good times to this summer. But if these two extreme differences in sound aren’t enough, there’s a third. Jamie xx’s truly solo work consists of laid-back dance songs that’re made up of echoing beats, city sounds, and manipulated voices. These are the tracks that truly send you into outer space. They’re also the ones that tie the album together so well.
Jamie xx has a one of a kind talent, and he uses it to create all types of music. It’s no wonder the xx uses him as a producer; he is a curator of sound. I’ve been follow Jamie for a while, through his xx work, his remixing of Gil Scott-Heron’s final album, and sporadic personal projects. I was a little nervous when I heard he’d be releasing a solo album because seeing him fail would’ve been so incredibly upsetting. But In Colour, and this visual album experience (btw, what a rad, innovative idea!), is so far from a failure. It’s far nearer (ayy, any other Jamie xx’s fan gettin’ my reference?) to underground dance music perfection.
As I look around at these abstract expressionist Motherwell prints, I’m thinkin’ they could use some innovation. Jamie whatcha up to? I’ve gotta project for you, bizarre visuals already included!