The xx - Coexist (4 stars)

The trio reduce and distill their nocturnal pop into small, graceful fragments

The xx - Coexist

The xx have that most cherished bond with the listener – they make you feel they are performing for you and you alone. Yes, the hushed and elegant reticence displayed on their 2009 debut was soon played to death, but in those moments of quiet solitude, the album still remained a soulful, soothing companion. The follow-up occupies that same echo chamber of the heart, resonating with those depth charge bass lines, moments of half-lit élan and plaintive vocals, like a fireworks display shrouded in fog. This chiaroscuro, light and shade, is what gives the band their satisfying, uncluttered sense of isolation. Instead of bombarding you, The xx possess that Burial-sequel atomised grandeur, reducing and distilling their nocturnal pop into small, graceful fragments.

Opener ‘Angels’ on the surface is a small song, but the barely-there simmering guitars and the delicacy of Romy Madley Croft’s breathy timbre quietly usher you back into The xx’s cocoon. Oliver Sim’s vocal on the relatively luminescent ‘Chained’ possesses that same restrained poise and the refrain of ‘We used to get closer than this’, sung by him and Madley Croft is heartmelting in its searing simplicity. Elsewhere, on ‘Reunion’, Jamie xx crowbars in some of his burnished steel pan amidst the contemplative clubby atmospheres, but the song remains tethered to the band’s sombre central nervous system. Less is always more with The xx.

The xx - Chained

The xx

The Mercury Prize winning mellow teen experimental four-piece preview their second album Coexist.

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