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In Review: Jamie xx at The Albert Hall, Manchester

Jamie xx
Friday 16th Oct
The Albert Hall, Manchester 

Jamie xx’s rise has been accompanied by a spellbinding soundtrack, stretching from eerie indie-pop to euphoric electronica. Still riding the crest of his latest Mercury Prize Nominated record; accompanied by the nostalgic sounds of London's Tasker, the gray landscape of the north was about to be drenched 'In Colour'.  

Jamie xx 

Arriving at doors, Tasker wastes no time in filling this chamber with beautifully layered sound. Dulcet eastern plucks drift into sharp, gated snares, ricocheting amongst the massive architecture. A rare glimpse of this venue, before the hordes descend, offers a chance to marvel at its thunderous qualities. Rapturous, reverberant vocals swell amid intricate, lively keys. Sultry sax progressions meandering with charm and sophistication. That 'Friday Feeling' encapsulated in an expertly selected library of records.

As a stream of bodies find their way toward the floor, the sonic landscape begins to shift, accommodating tribal, percussive flourishes. A modulated, distorted vocal tears forward. Signposting an escalation, bass taking hold, enveloping us in thick waves of throbbing electronica. Rhodes keys delicately perched atop a starry lake, the surface tension breaking to reveal forceful shockwaves cascading from an epicenter, lurching up walls before falling back upon themselves, each swell magnifying the last, until flickering hi-hats disturb the resonance.  

Vivid sawtoothed pads reach a heavenly apex atop a churning pit of arpeggiated bass as a figure forms beneath a looming, gothic pipe-organ. Accented by a resonant cascade of noise, we begin to realize. It's time.

A shrill, collective roar lights this joint consciousness as Jamie xx materializes, unleashing lush swarms of angelic, glimmering synths. A myriad of phones flash a ripple of bright white, truly a modern sign of admiration. Our collective lung roars beneath a now sinister yellow hue as snares sharp enough to incise skin split the air, anointed by one, lingering sub-stab, erupting with enough force to split the atom. A break, a nanosecond of silence, then the whip cracks. Percussion cascading downward amidst a chorus of strobes. This is it, into the depths of space.  

Jamie xx 

Immediately apparent is an awe-inspiring compositional texture. Every frequency drenched in a separate melody or rhythm that could operate entirely within itself, but instead orbits around one central pivot. A fulcrum, periodically aligning with its surroundings to create a beast much greater than the sum of its parts. Once this initial force dissipates, heavenly blips and chiming drones manifest. A sonic recreation of a heavy concussion. Audible birds circling our cartoon heads. Tribal percussion blooms, its tendrils spiraling outward. Impossibly crisp tablas click and pop beneath glittering specks dancing off vast overhead disco-balls. Glistening across euphoric faces as they fall into each other.  

The ferocity of this landscape reaching its boiling point, I begin to wonder where exactly we're headed. Then a taste of those idiosyncratic steel-drums, soft yet powerful, and so intrinsically linked with Jamie xx's sound. Every mind in the room is instantly transported to an ethereal bliss, bathed in crystalline spines of euphoria. Suddenly, a perfect second of nothingness. Broken by primal, oscillating bass. Sending us careening into the drop. Never before have I witnessed such masterful discipline of the aggressive and the delicate, this set filled with schizophrenic leaps. Soft, twinkling melodies, mirrored by deep, animalistic surges. The instantly recognizable bolts of Artful Dodger's classic Moving to Fast burst forward as every voice projects in unison. Scanning the glimmering faces below, sheer joy beams back from every direction. To command such feeling, at such a young age, must be almost surreal.  

Jamie xx 

The magnitude of genres covered here is monumental. Brief yet full-bodied jaunts through bouncing deep house, grime-influenced bass-lines, emotionally-charged trance soaked in beauty. At a point this ceases to feel like a DJ set, it almost seems too dull a term. This craftsmanship feels more akin to a scientific expedition into how the nature of sound can re-configure one's mind.

As we fall back to earth, taking a moment to bathe in the aftermath, it's clear not one face is without a beaming smile, nor one back without a thick layer of sweat. Even 7 years after his first foray into the public consciousness, Jamie continues to rise. It's clear this artist is becoming one of our generation's greatest pioneers, and I cannot wait to hear the records that punctuate his ascent.

Jamie xx

Words by Sean Toohey
Photos courtesy of Jack Kirwin
In Review: Jamie xx at The Albert Hall, Manchester

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