#4. Jamie xx: In Colour

The opening song of In Colour, “Gosh,” begins with the sort of minimalist dance music one might find at a rave in the dark hours of the morning. Restless drum loops lock in with relentless, droning bass beneath a warped sample of a man exclaiming “Oh my gosh!” It feels like the climax of a massive dance party in the dead of night.

But something happens halfway through the song. The vocal sample drops away, and the bassline rises out of its monotone and begins to hint at harmonic structure. Slowly, a single synth note appears above the loops and grows. Gradually, it blossoms into a jubilant melody that rises ever higher into the atmosphere. It's the sunrise that interrupts the nighttime rave captured in the first half of “Gosh,” and the single note that bursts into melody is the first ray of light over the horizon as it hits a prism and fractures into a spectrum of colors.

Just when “Gosh” seems to be establishing In Colour as a no nonsense dance album, it pivots and reveals the album’s true colors (pun intended). What Jamie Smith has created is the soundtrack to the rave culture of the 21st century. As a whole, the album is much more introverted than its opening minutes. Muffled voices meander like spirits on “Sleep Sound,” and the rich groove of “Girl” sounds like it belongs on a smoky dance floor in a dream. However, there are more raucous moments, such as the Young Thug and Popcaan assisted “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times).” But even at its most celebratory, Smith’s instrumental palette of synths and steel drums keeps the record in the same atmospheric tonal world as his band The xx.

There’s an inherent contradiction when an introverted album pays homage to rave culture. This point is perhaps best illustrated on the album’s crown jewel, “Loud Places.” Vocal harmonies coalesce with longing guitar ostinatos, painting a picture of a dance club through a heartbreaking lens. Romy, one of Smith’s bandmates from The xx, sings in the opening line, “I go to loud places, to search for someone / to be quiet with, who will take me home.” If one lyric could capture the soul of In Colour, this would be it.