There’s something about minimalistic art that gets me every time: The way Piet Mondrian turns four vibrant squares of color into a complex and thoroughly satisfying artistic expression, the way Samuel Beckett transforms the bare essence of a play into transcendence or how Philip Glass makes spacey music oddly effecting.
The xx, the latest schoolboy-turned-rockstar graduates of England’s famous Elliot School for performing arts, employs minimalistic beauty in its debut album, xx. The four 20-year-old kids exhibit startling maturity and elegance in their work, all while using only a few masterful brush strokes. Lead vocalists Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim sing with sultry descants. The pair’s intoxicating and smooth vocals harmonize like two lovers in bed — there is something dark and deeply “sexxual” hidden between their quiet table manners. On the track “Basic Space,” Croft and Sim’s vocals parallel changes in simple instrumentation to create a slowly evolving pop song. Like Romeo and Juliet forced to sit next to each other at a dark dinner table amongst their families, the sexual tension on xx is palpable.
The xx has a clear affinity for American R&B. The album opens with “Intro” and “VCR,” which provide listeners with the rare glimpse at guitar and keyboard solos — the rest of the album emphasizes romantic lyricism, mutually abstract and poppy spaciousness and the basic beauty of the human voice. The xx presents its music graciously, allowing room for the songs to breathe and take on lives of their own.
— By Entertainment Editor Geoff Schorkopf