“Sampling is a means of putting yourself into a song and creating your own narrative from it.” These are the words of Mark Ronson from a TED talk last year. Something tells me that his fellow Londoner Jamie xx would agree with that sentiment.
After releasing a remix album ‘We’re New Here’ with Gil Scott Heron in 2011, Jamie’s first solo effort ‘In Colour’ is a remarkably accomplished debut from a producer only getting started. It’s full of nods to the early days of house, but its ear is finely tuned to the modern electronic aesthetic, all of this makes it one of the most addictive listens of 2015.
These so called nods are just that.. nods, brief snippets of the beginnings of UK garage. These slices of nostalgia are sprinkled all over the album, especially in opening track Gosh, which samples MC chatter from an old BBC Radio 1 show. The song is seen as a tribute to old-school jungle and, at the beginning, it is. Nearer the end, though, it transforms into a sprawling modern oasis.
From his days in The xx, Jamie has been known for his minimalist production, and for the most part it continues on ‘In Colour’. This approach can appear quite simplistic at first, but this would be a careless conclusion to make. Obvs for example, starts with a conventional steel drum lead but later it becomes the anchor of the track with a chorus embellished by a bed of soaring synths.
The back half of the album boasts two ready-made party anthems Loud Places and I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times). The first of these is the most “radio friendly” song on the album by far. It features The xx singer Romy on vocals with lyrics that wouldn’t be out of place on a Lana Del Ray record, but the way it meshes with a sample of Iris Muhammad’s Could Heaven Ever Be Like This elevates its meaning.
The second of these is a different beast all together and features the polarizing rapper Young Thug & Jamaican singer Popcaan. With the genius use of a sample of The Persuasions Good Times, Young Thug’s explicit verse shares the samples carefree vibes. This light hearted approach is what makes these contrasting elements work and is why it’s one of the best party tracks of the year.
The crown jewel of the album is The Rest is Noise, it encapsulates the albums focus on the intimate moments in “loud places”. The track begins at a six, gets brought down to a two with a beautiful piano line, before ratcheting back up to 11 for a final crescendo.
It’s this sort of attention to detail which makes ‘In Colour’ an enthralling listen from start to finish. In a world where we’re concerned about the bigger picture we often lose focus of the smaller moments, ‘In Colour’ seamlessly straddles the divide between the two.