Posts Tagged ‘The XX’

Islands

The XX – Islands (Live)

There’s not much more to say about the XX that’s not been written, blogged or delicately whispered over electro beats, so I’ll keep this short! As you will inevitably know, in an eminently sensible and thus utterly unpredictable decision, the Mercury Music Prize judges awarded the now trio with album of the year earlier this week.
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Blood Red Moon

The XX – Blood Red Moon (Demo)

After featuring The XX high in my best of 2010 list (like every other music blogger and two bit hack), I’ve been trying to work out one of their songs to use on here for a fair while now with no luck so far.

The problem was a combination of me thinking too literally and forgetting the raisin d’etre of shotwithsound, and them writing songs that no matter how amazing they sound, are basically the musings of mooning adolescents. I was focussing too much about the lyrics (which are often sub-Twilight, although that’s not always a problem round here!) when I should have remembered that SWS is about the music – how or makes me feel, where it takes me, the mood it creates for me.

As soon as I moved away from the literal to the metaphysical (and you thought this blog could get no more pretentious?!) I worked out that what listening to XX reminds me of is late nights and dark streets, whispering greetings and flickering streetlights. And London. They remind me of London despite sounding like the perfectly chiseled love children of Serge Gainsbourg, Air, Edith Piaf and DJ Mehdi (a four way love child, eugh gross – rubbish similie ed)… Well, they sound hip, French and young anyway – but they sound like London nights and flickering lights to me.

Hence the midnight light trails in the shot above – encompassing as it does lights from the A40 and from the Metropolitan line. There is a coldness as well as a coolness in the XX’s music that I hope the image above recreates a little.

I usually do a bit of a biography of the bands I feature on here, but I doubt that anyone is unaware of their backgrounds – that school loads of people more talented than I’ll be went to; Rough Trade deal; album recorded at night in a whisper; sensation – so I shall do no more than that. The demo of Blood Red Moon featured on the b-side of the Basic Space single last summer, and is a simple, short and symptomatic of the songs that featured on the debut, all sirens, synths and smoke soaked low-key vocals.

I figured most of the people reading this will have or have heard their debut album, so I chose to use one of the b-sides to one of their earlier singles on here to keep it interesting, but if you don’t you can buy it from Amazon here or download it from The XX

Variation of Birds

The Knife – Variation of Birds

As this blog is less than a year old, I have yet to use two original tracks by the same artist (although I came close with Trentmoller here and here), so it is not in keeping for me feature two tracks from the same album within months of one another, but I am doing, and I hope no-one minds.

There are several special pleadings I’d like to make to justify the rudeness. Firstly, when The Knife initially announced the release of Tomorrow, In A Year, the operatic soundtrack about Darwin’s life they had scored with collaborators Mt. Simm and Planningtorock, they released the eerie Colouring Of Pidgeons as a teaser for it, and although I blogged about it here, I didn’t actually allow the MP3 to be downloaded.

Secondly, despite the digital version of Tomorrow, In A Year being released last month, the exquisitely packaged CD version only hits the streets tomorrow – although if, like me, you pre-ordered, you may have your copy by now.

And my final reason for featuring the album twice is that since I first wrote about it, my admiration, my thankfulness, my wonder, at the scope, the ambition, the realisation, the beauty and the savage strangeness of the album has only increased the more I’ve listened to it. I genuinely believe that the musical world should thank whatever deity it turns toward that artists with the imagination, the bravery and the brilliance of The Knife exist to create music as wonderful and as weird as this is.

If you haven’t heard any of the opera before, I should warn that it is pretty demanding and unusual listening, making use of atonality, glitches, and static – I cannot remember another electro artists producing anything as challenging and as avant-garde as this before. It owes much more to Schoenberg, Strauss’s Salome and Mahler than it does to modern electro or electronica.

Yesterday evening, in a trip out with some friends, as something between an experiment and a test, I played the second disc of the soundtrack, to garner their views. Unsurprisingly, they  were surprised by the music, but more, they had not only not heard of the project (who apart from geeky bloggers has?!) but they hadn’t (despite the huge Heartbeats) heard of The Knife… Which I think is a shame not just for people who haven’t enjoyed their music and for their record sales, but for our musical culture more widely. In a world where Lady Gaga, The XX and La Roux top charts, there is surely a case for an act who clearly influenced each of them to be more widely known. I don’t imagine one more wordy, wondering and wandering post on one more MP3 blog will change that much, but if one more person gets to enjoy them because of this, I’d be pretty pleased.

If you remember the photo I used for the last track, you will see the similarity of the two. In keeping with the Darwinian theme of the music, I tried to use an image that is an evolution from the earlier one – reaching higher into the sky, and procreating too.

You can buy the album from The Knife’s website here or from Amazon here or download it from The Knife In Collaboration with Mt. Sims and Planningtorock - Tomorrow, In a Year

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shotwithsound

shotwithsound is a blog about the music I love, with occasional forays into my photography, and other things that catch my eye.

You can see more of my photography on my website www.nicstevenson.com.