You can listen to 'Angels' here.
In my review of the band's first album, 'xx', I was reasonably enthusiastic. The xx offered a new sound with extreme silences, creating dramatic effects this way that captured my attention for a while. Not long enough though to enter my end-of-year list for 2009. For that the album, when all was said and done, was to one dimensional to keep me interested. When I played the album again after a while, it did not regain my favour. So what happens now that Coexist is released, the band's second effort?
My first impression and second and third is that nothing's changed, really. New songs, but very close to what I already know. That has not kept me from listening to the album several times as you've noticed. Simply because I like what I'm hearing. The effect of Coexist is that the listener hears more of what isn't there, or better, could have been there, but isn't. The open structure of the songs make it possible to hear what in most productions is left out or simply disappears under everything else going on. What music does to the room, the effect on the speakers, guitars itself. I am not in the studio or rehearsal room, of course, but either the band strips music away layer for layer or they work from just a vocal melody or guitar line and work with the mood from there. It's a mellow, melancholy if not plain sad mood The xx excels in.
Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim sing solo or a duet in this slow, lazy way with some studio effects enhancing the voice. Beside singing, their voices are used as instruments as they are so important for the songs. They totally stand out. At times the voice is the only lever that keeps the song steady as all else is atmosphere or effect. This makes it at least triple so great that the songs stand out. Again over the whole album it is a little too much, but I'm intrigued to find out more and listen more intently.
Jamie Smith is responsible for all the beats. In the end I'm listening to a dance (influenced) album. The beats are slow, intricate. All the rest in a song, a guitar -often just a chord stroke- a bass line or a small patch of keyboards, are nothing but decorations. It is this element most of all that makes The xx stand out compared to, let's say by far most, music I listen to. That is what makes me have to work harder and that may be why Coexist may win me over in the end, where xx did not succeed. The xx has simply become better at what they do. And this is about where 'Tides' starts when I'm writing. This is The xx's anthem, as close as they ever come to one that is. What a great, impressive song!
The three of them together create an atmosphere of great longing or perhaps the complete opposite where everything is over-saturated and there's nothing left to wish for. Both lead to this mood of almost non-participation and it's so utterly intriguing as it is a complete world of their own. There are other bands working in the absolute minimum range, but none attracted me in the way The xx has done with Coexist.
Although I know nearly certain that I will never go and see the band live, (just imagine the average Dutch audience with music like this...) Coexist will find its way into my player over the coming time. Let's see where it is a few months from now, but there's definitely a chance to make it top 10, I'd say. Coexist deserves to be heard. So what are you waiting for?
You can order Coexist here