Friday, January 22, 2010

Chilling to the xx

For some reason that probably says more about me than I would care to admit, I often identify music less by its genre than by the type of drink that seems to go with it the best. When you listen to Pearl Jam or Rage Against the Machine, you just feel it would be wrong to drink anything other than beer. You really can't mix Nick Cave with anything other than rum, and Tom Waits begs to washed down with a good whisky. And Grizzly Bear just demands a nice chardonnay with subtle hints of different flavours and aromas and after-tastes. Madonna would probably lead you to a really bright green cream-based cocktail.

So, when I listened for the first time a couple of nights ago to the relatively new London based band, the xx, I didn't think so much of dream pop and chillout as about the fact that I had no idea how to make a martini.

The xx's self-titled debut album was released in August last year. The music here is soft, understated, whispered - music that walks its fingers over your body as you lie beneath a summer evening sky, giving you that faint little warm tingle that feels so good when you need to put the day's, and the world's, craziness behind you.

Every song on this album is superbly, carefully crafted, as if by a sculptor, where even the jagged edges are noticed not for their roughness, but for their interesting texture.

The vocals of Romy Madley Craft and Oliver Sim are hushed and sensual, dreamy, against guitars, beats and keys that build eloquent, sunset-hued landscapes, painted in ways that landscapes have never been painted before, where foreground and background are merged. Listen to the languid sliding bass electronics at the end of 'Fantasy', easing into the faltering, hesitating 'Shelter', sounding like the earth holding its breath for fear of waking you from the dream into which it has lulled you.

The xx give their music a lot of air, spacious without being sparse. The beat is slow, but never drags, the music giving each note time to be appreciated before moving onto the next one, and yet it never loses its sense of easy, flowing momentum, like in the long vocal phrases against pulsating guitars and beats in 'Infinity', building in a seductive crescendo that embraces you and then lays you gently down.

Xx takes you into another space - a world that is full of dreams and, like most dreams, seems both familiar and foreign at the same time. It's a place, and an album, that you really don't want to leave.

Discovered on the shelves of Melbourne's Polyester Records.

No comments:

Post a Comment