The XX - Hamburg, 10/14/2009
oh romy„, my heart skipped a thousand beats!
The XX - Hamburg, 10/14/2009
oh romy„, my heart skipped a thousand beats!
This is the flyer for the cover launch party and the cover will be the same image.
It’s SO beautiful and definately the best cover ever. Thank you Caius =)
by methane studios
ILLUSTRATION: KIM DEMARCO
JANUARY 25, 2010
The lights go on for The xx.
The music, like the band, felt reluctant—a guitar line inched out with only a measly beat as chaperon, entirely immune to dynamic spikes or variation. A moony phrase would hang in the room without the support of any backing rhythm: “You mean that much to me and it’s hard to show / Gets hectic inside of me when you go.” The mood was somewhere below mopey, as if musicians lost in the folds of their introversion were unable to see the people standing in front of them. Was the band in the same room with us or were they avatars manipulated from London? I left, unexpectedly cross. Months later, when I took my friends’ advice and listened to the band’s album, I realized that I had missed the entire point.The songs on “xx” are as intimate as pop gets, and, now that I’ve fallen for the music, it makes complete sense that it baffled me live. These are songs to be sung inches from someone’s ear, preferably with the lights off. The music is all closeups, and transferring it to a big, unfriendly space would just strand the gestures. I am impressed that the band has been able to convert so many people with their live shows, because the songs on the album feel to me like the love letters of Tamina in Milan Kundera’s “The Book of Laughter and Forgetting”—letters that were so intimate that what gave them their “meaning and worth” was that they were intended “for her alone.”
Madley Croft and Sim, who write the songs, met when they were three, in London. At the age of eleven, the two met Qureshi and Smith at the Elliott School, which has produced a string of pop musicians: Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green, Burial’s Will Bevan, and Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden, among others. (The school did not set out to be a musical breeding ground; it just has the kind of curriculum that allows students to study the electric bass at school instead of at home.) The group signed to the XL label and worked for more than a year on the album, along the way rejecting collaborations with well-known producers like Diplo. Smith became the album’s de-facto producer, recording the songs at night in the basement of the label’s London office.
With The xx, sound and subject go in two different directions. I can’t think of a working band that is as genuinely minimalist. (Madley Croft studied Philip Glass at school.) But the band also professes to love R. & B., and has even covered songs by the late American star Aaliyah and the current British singer Kyla. (In some versions of the album, those tracks are included on a bonus disk.) That claim, though likely true, doesn’t give you much insight into their music, even if the beats are made from the same synthetic bricks that the pop guys use. The two older bands whose work bleeds through most clearly in xx songs are the Cure and New Order, which trafficked in both the melancholy of the solitary epiphany and the ecstasy of the shared dance. The ecstasy bit is still in the future for The xx; their comfort zone is the darker, velvety bits, and what they’ve learned from both these bands is how to use the smallest changes to make an impact. Madley Croft’s guitar lines are direct descendants of the lines that the bassist Peter Hook wrote for New Order—compact secondary melodies played so high on the neck that many listeners assumed they were guitar lines.
Where The xx may be even better than their elders is in the severity of their arrangements. Big, washy keyboards? Not here, pal. More than one guitar string at a time? Those poufy lush things called chords? Highly indulgent. It’s even more surprising how ascetic and disciplined the band is when it comes to presenting information. In the album’s most active song, “Crystalised,” all we have is Sim and Madley Croft trading vocals over a bass line and a clicking stick. When the other members enter, with a drumbeat, it feels like an extraordinary blooming, even though it’s how most bands run through all the songs in a set. (There may even be a chord involved at this point.) You don’t think of people this young being masters of restraint, but the album works like a visit to the optometrist, with instruments dropping in and out every four or eight bars: Is that clearer? How about that? How about now?
That’s one reason that this short album, at just under thirty-nine minutes, is so easy to play and replay. Nothing wears out its welcome, especially the two-minute instrumental “Intro,” the kind of track that listeners in the iTunes era are likely to delete. (Don’t!) Play the album a few times and all of a sudden other pop music sounds abrasive and overstuffed and shouty. The lyrics are where the age of the band shows. Madley Croft and Sim exchange lyrics on iChat, and never discuss what they mean. The two share the vocal duties on most songs, though the effect is rarely that of a duet. They’re singing at the same time, but in parallel, not necessarily to each other. (They met when they were three, after all.) It’s as if they’re looking through the same window at different people. One song, “Night Time,” could be about the songwriting process itself, though it could just as well be about longing: “Night time, sympathize / I’ve been working on white lies / So I’ll tell the truth / I’ll give it up to you / and when the day comes / it will have all been fun / We’ll talk about it soon.” The arrangement draws the ear down to Sim and Madley Croft—the song runs for two minutes with only her voice and the bass and guitar. You could easily forget that this band is more than a duo. Then the drums begin to creep in, and by the end of the song the confessional has filled with light—or as much light as The xx allow in.
There are a few moments of juvenilia that work only for those who are actually twenty, but most of the sexual and romantic frustrations are comprehensible regardless of listeners’ age. “Shelter” includes one of Madley Croft’s loveliest inversions. She sings the word “undercover,” and it sounds more than likely that this is just a sideways nod to the bed. The song hinges on one phrase, almost every syllable landing squarely on a quarter note: “Maybe I had said something that was wrong / Can I make it better with the lights turned on?” You’ll hear “on” as “off ” several times. And why wouldn’t you? Who hasn’t used sex to mask an argument? But not this time—the young woman is stopping the action to sit up and talk it out. (That impulse may fade over time.) It’s a twist that mirrors the band’s methods, stripping the contestants bare and leaving each element unadorned and illuminated. That’s the inverse of the mumbling I thought I was hearing at Pianos. And I don’t need these young musicians to have figured anything out. How much do teen-agers know about love? Not much. Desire? A lot. Anxiety, anticipation, regret, frustration, delight, fear? More than most of us, maybe. ♦
The xx Round Off European Tour In London
Band play a triumphant second date at Shepherd’s Bush Empire
The xx made a celebratory return to their home town London last night playing the second of two sell out shows at Shepherd’s Bush Empire.
Following exemplary support from Esben and The Witch and These New Puritans the young trio took to the stage from behind a twenty foot white sheet.
As their silhouettes were projected onto the sheet the band played ‘Intro’. The sheet then dropped revealing the band, all dressed in black, going on to play ‘Crystalised’.
Audience participation was low with singer Oliver Sim admitting that they are “Rubbish at onstage banter.” That didn’t stop the crowd whooping, cheering and screaming to the start of every song however with ‘Basic Space’ and ‘Shelter’ impressing the most.
After performing a cover of Womack and Womack’s ‘Teardrops’ The xx returned for a one song encore. Hundreds of tiny lights flickered on stage to the sound of ‘Stars’ and ticker tape was released from the rafters and the band left, thanking the audience profusely as they did so.
See below for James Berry’s excellent shots of the show.
This is taken from XYZ Magazine
Photography by Ed Isaacs
Click the link for great xx photos