Text Alfonso Gomez
“It was good – we enjoyed it – but we never used to, like, rave to it.”
Album highlight ‘I Know There’s Gonna be (Good Times)’, a track that will make Young Thug a hipster fav over the summer, ends with the above uncredited interview excerpt. While the track placement is near the end of the album, the quote is very much emblematic of what Jamie xx is trying to accomplish with In Colour; an LP-length journey of UK dance via a millennial musician who has never experienced the glory days of pirate radio and warehouse raves. Having that be the coda of masterful album opener ‘Gosh’ would be too on the nose – its sampling of an unaired episode of BBC Radio 1’s One in the Jungle is indicative enough of Jamie’s intent, which is to deconstruct late ‘90s rave culture (perhaps a bit of the early noughts as well). In this case, the “Oh my gosh/ Easy, easy” sample (DJ Ron and MC String) is a tribute to that pivotal moment of a late ‘90s jungle and d’n’b rave where MCs would exclaim their amazement of how awe-inspiring the music is. The Amen drum break used on the track should predicate the ragga inspiration just as much – but of course, Jamie’s pop acumen layers these influences over an overt sci-fi leaning that’s been the trope of so much of his post-dubstep peers.
“Throughout the UK and beyond! Ireland, France, Belgium… Keeping the vibe alive!” (relative transcription)
‘Gosh’ sounds like the anthem that In Colour will be remembered by – it is strange that the absolute culmination of what Jamie’s built over the past six years is used as an album intro. But like every excerpt of dialogue sampled, this is done with thought behind it. The above quote ends ‘Gosh’ – and arguably it’s only after that the album begins proper. Structurally, from the appropriately named second track ‘Sleep Sound’ (more in reference to its mood than hypnagogia inducement) to penultimate number ‘The Rest is Noise’ (a countermeasure anthem to ‘Gosh’), there is a build up to the record that’s reminiscent of the comedown period Xes Xes Loveseat had expounded upon in an article here. Characterising the post-rave comedown theory as “[songs that] have a nostalgic feel-good vibe,” one could surmise that Jamie isn’t only attempting to facsimile a period of UK dance he couldn’t be a part of, but also create the ultimate comedown to the rave culture.
This is of course just a supposition – Jamie’s time with The xx could have contributed to that feeling of wistfulness and longing. While ‘Stranger in a Room (feat. Oliver Sim)’ is overtly a song that could have been off Coexist’s b-side, some like ‘SeeSaw’, featuring another member of the band, Romy, is The xx as filtered through Jamie’s dance heroes – sparse guitar and drums work replaced with the man’s affinity for breakbeat. In hindsight, the result is something like a dance remix of an xx track. Fortunately, these aren’t so much a retread to The xx as they are part and parcel of Jamie’s own music history – appropriation of retro music is a bigger slight if done without direction of today’s music zeitgeist.
True to that, In Colour isn’t dependent on just mining the nostalgia of decades past raves through the ears of a UK dance fan. One instance is ‘Loud Places’, the second track featuring bandmate Romy. It could very well be a modern pop hit by Rudimental – and the sample from Idris Muhammad’s ‘Could Heaven Ever Be Like This’ used in the chorus elevates the melancholic lethargy of Romy’s usual vocal work to the greater heights sung by Muhammad’s vocalists. It’s that transcendental end to a rave where the euphoria of being in the moment mingles with the pensiveness of not wanting it all to end – damn the comedown after!
“You’re in ecstasy without me/ When you come down/ I won’t be around.”
Mainstream dance fans might not take a liking to In Colour too much, but there has never been a record that reflects the ‘10s rave culture via retromancy as much as this album. Romy sings the above line in layers of truths – the commentary on the ephemeral nature of raves, there is something to be gleaned there musically; something on the preservation of early UK dance vs. the bliss of ignoring it. Jamie is after all a dance musician, dance fan, and dance historian.