In colour

I haven’t published anything for more than 24 hours. Daily writing is not off to a good start.

I intended to publish something yesterday, but I had promised to see some friends and that activity went on into the night. That is my excuse and I’m sticking to it, for you the reader.

I thought, last night, when I got home, that it would be funny to keep writing, here, as a record of the struggle to write every day. I don’t intend on manufacturing that situation but it may not need a helping hand.

The task of publishing here every day has caused me to revisit my notebooks. I do write regularly, about books, music, films, brick patterns, the great rising-damp scandal, etc. I just don’t polish those notes into a coherent form and share them. So this daily writing lark shouldn’t be too difficult as the groundwork is there, I just need to get it out, or “ship it” as they say nowadays on technology podcasts. I guess that’s the hard part.

Back in spring last year I wrote about Jamie XX’s album ‘In Colour’. It had just been released and I was listening to it a lot. He’s one of those annoying people who’s younger than me but deserves respect for doing good work. A bastard, on a bad day.

Before playing the album I glanced at the tracklist, which confirms Jamie XX as millennial brethren, with track names such as ‘Gosh’, ‘Obvs’ and ‘Just Saying’. They mislead as the content is not frivolous, as implied.

He spoke to Gilles Peterson on 6 Music before the album was released. I expect it was part of a promotional tour but he sounded decidedly unexcited about the album, which immediately made me excited. He knew he’d done good and it didn’t need a push. It was a coy confidence; a very British and millenial confidence.

Of course, I remember his original band The XX breaking through in 2009. Their whole emotion chimed with a generation coming of age. I was in my final year at Manchester University at the time, wrapped up in my dissertation on metamorphosis and fairy tales. Rineke Dijkstra’s awkward portraits of transforming teenagers were on my mind. The album ‘xx’ evoked a meandering feeling of bittersweet wonder. It was the end of freedom and the beginning of opportunity.

Then came Jamie XX’s album with the late Gil Scott-Heron, which was more complex; more artefact than album. I didn’t love it, but I knew I would, and I do now.

Growing up alongside the internet, the millenial psyche has been shaped by the social pressure to create a persona. We sample and curate to display an idea of ourselves online. Jamie XX does this with ‘In Colour’. Mark Richardson said on Pitchfork, “we’re listening to his listening and hearing his hearing.” It’s like an audio scrapbook full of neatly cut memories of garage, R&B, EDM and carnival. It’s a sign of our time that an album that feels so of-the-moment is in fact full of reference. New, now, is old. Context is form.

‘In Colour’ begins with ‘Gosh’, a fierce and exciting crescendo that is my madeleine, evoking memories of nights out, attempts at Garage Band, and listening to Pete Tong’s Essential Mix show as a kid. More dark bangers, fuzzy vignettes and tributes make the album sounds so familiar that you’d be forgiven for thinking you made it late one sleepless night.

Gilles Peterson said this is not an album to be shuffled. But I couldn’t find that flow between tracks that you’d associate with a well-crafted album; at times there is clear dissonance between tracks. Then it struck me…‘In Colour’ evokes the feeling of walking between rooms in a club. That initial wander around to survey the scene and decide where you want to start the night. It’s casual, what the Italians call ‘sprezzatura’. It’d all be lost in a shuffle.

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