[sic] Magazine

The XX – XX

‘The Age Of Understatement’

It’s official. Minimalism is the new experimentalism. Out with your complex collectives and in with pure expressionism. This London outfit have two weapons of choice, stripped beats and reverb, as well as the combined clout of their vocalists. The sultry Romy Croft coos throughout and Oliver Sim croons compliantly in velvet soporifics.

Lead and atmospheric single ‘Crystalised’ is but the tip of this frosty iceberg. The echo-y gloom of the economically titled ‘Intro’ is Turn Out The Bright Lights without the theatrics. Its stadium-sized riffs are played at a whisper and the shoebox production only adds to the claustrophobic and dreamy qualities it emits. Australia’s HTRK work with similar influences, theirs focusing more on the industrial, Birthday Party line, The XX seemingly keener on the Cocteau Twins’ ethereality.

The wonderful Womack & Womack cover, ‘Teardrops’ (only available on the special edition), and ‘VCR’ have genuine alt-pop appeal, happy soundtracks to some fuggish slow-dance with a handsome stranger.. The latter thinks nothing of again raiding the Dengler catalogue for bass inspiration. ‘Islands,’ along with ‘Basic Space’, plays host to the gentlest of beats-led, urban, R&B influences. ‘Shelter’ is mildly trip-hop-ish, seeing fit to combine that influence with a desire to regress into 90s lounge-pop. Luckily, this doesn’t last long as Croft’s drifting reverb quickly drowns it.

Even The Ronettes famous ‘bm bm chk’ is borrowed and duly perverted on ‘Heart Skipped A Beat’, this before the track segues into the usual guitar work. The relaxed near-electronica of ‘Night Time’ is part Hot Chip’s bespectacled nod (they were school-mates don’t you know) and part Chromatics’ breathy, post-coital meditation and general, frosty cool.

Put to the crucible, there are moments of disinterest that veer The XX away from the cutting edge and into indifference. These threaten a wearisome trajectory rather than the projected rise to stardom, but nevertheless the XX are gently blurring boundaries, showcasing the power of refrain, and introducing the real age of understatement.