Label: Young Turks
Released: June 1, 2015
Reviewer: Sean Fitzsimons
Some albums are long overdue, yes, but in musical years, Jamie Smith’s (Jamie XX) first solo LP since releasing the golden reworking of the late Gil Scott Heron’s vocals in 2011 has seemed light years in the making.
It is strange that a producer who has been so pivotal in shaping the sound of British dance music this decade is just now only releasing his first wholly original solo album. But he has been a busy man, and according to a recent interview in the Guardian, Smith admitted that the album merely provided him with the opportunity to finish off tracks which had been lying around for the past six years.
Jamie has been consistent with his single releases in the past two years, following his second successful album as part of The XX trio, the Londoner reintroduced himself solo in 2014 with Girl, complemented by Sleep Sound and followed with the UK dance culture tribute All Under One Roof Raving.
Fast forward to the anticipated release of In Colour and Jamie would surely seem to have a wealth of musical gems to line his crowning album with.
Kick starting with Gosh, a preceding single B-side release, the record firmly announces itself with an array of saw-scratching and mind-bending bass punches. ‘Oh my gosh’ rings the sample with the distant sound of a horn, straight out of a jungle rave.
As Gosh climaxes to the sound of longer drawn out bass and an ear-splitting synth, it just as quickly drags itself down to the gentle strumming of Sleep Sound. From here on in, the album remains pleasantly unpredictable, while not entirely striking.
Along with splashes of hardcore, rare groove and jungle, those steel percussions which have ran throughout much of Smith’s career are present in the spine of In Colour, none more so than Obvs, one of the album’s warmest and most soothing tracks.
Loud Places was an early release this year, here it provides the closest moment to an actual XX track, with the sweet and wholly recognisable vocals of XX bandmate Romy, until a brilliant sample of the brilliant Idris Muhammad’s Could Heaven Ever Be Like This kicks in to combine with the off-beat trademark of Jamie’s production prowess.
The real lighter moment comes in the form of I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times), fusing the surprising collab vocals of Popcaan and Young Thug, it’s a stand-out track that, with the added vocals, manages not to stick out like a sore thumb.
To reiterate curiosity over the timing of this release, a question which may hang over this album is what impact would it have had say, two years ago? When dubstep’s wobbly basslines were beginning to leave clubs and the lighter rhythms of house were making their way back into a new generation of clubbers ears – tracks like the album’s penultimate euphoric number The Rest Is Noise may have stirred more people into new realms of music they hadn’t heard before back then.
But there is little point in questioning Jamie XX’s creative output when, at 26, he is already one of the most recognisable producers and remixers in the world, and a key member of one of this decade’s greatest alternative pop bands.
For never failing to acknowledge the soul, jazz and electronic influences which have spanned his musical upbringing and for keeping fans on their toes with every new piece of work he produces, Jamie XX is a UK artist to treasure. He may consider this an album that was made for the sake of finishing off a few tracks, but we can just be grateful he made one at all.