Record Label: XL Recordings/Young Turks
It is with something of a tall order The xx return with their sophomore LP, Coexist. After releasing such a well received debut in the shape of xx, the London based trio have been keeping us all on tender hooks regarding details of their latest output. At one stage it almost looked unlikely that The xx were going to cut another record, however over the recent months they have drip fed soundbites helping form a mental image of what their debut’s successor will sound like. Jamie Smith the wunderkind production genius in the band stated he was influenced by club music, which got tongues wagging with the thought that the sombre threesome were going to get all ravey on us.
As you might expect The xx haven’t gone warehouse rave, instead they have drawn out key ingredients from dance music, like the odd bassline or a floorfilling beat and slotted it in amongst their low key electronica. ‘Sunset’ manages to draw in a bass thud reminiscent of times after dark but splices it with the trio’s love of melancholy and intimacy. The echo laden riff found on the track jars against the floor thump, while the lyric of “It’s like the sunset in your eyes/what have you done with the one I love?” mournfully these words are followed by “After all we had, we act like we never met”. The foresaid song encapsulates Coexist, it’s a personal, intimate record almost like reading the pages of a loved ones diary. At times the lyrics are so laid bare; it almost feels a little uncomfortable digesting them but then the band beckon you forward making the sharing process a mutual experience.
The club vibes continue on ‘Swept Away’ but instead of portraying images of boozed up party goers, the mood of the track conveys the images of a 4am stumble home with shadows painted on grey over-passes and the faint hum of the club’s PA in your ears.
Coexist might not quite recapture the splendour of xx but it comes close. Smith’s production has progressed while still maintaining his key understated sound. Sonically the trio still sound sparse yet captivating, the use of silence provides that ‘hold your breath’ anticipation The xx have become famous for. Smith has even found time to add in that steel drum he has used on his solo work, which crops up on the euphoric ‘Reunion’. It’s not just Smith who has grown as a musician, vocalists/guitarists Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim show a new depth in their rich voices. Their velvet like tones are the perfect vehicles for heart wrenching word play such as “We used to be closer than this” found on ‘Chained’ and the themes of a failing relationship quiver in the throat of Madley with “I want you to be mine” and “You know the way I can’t resist you”.
Perfecting on perfection was always going to be an up hill struggle, but The xx while not bettering their first album have shown they can still make music of intimate, soul searching beauty
Words and Thoughts of Adam Williams