My review of “Coexist” by The XX + Live with BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Read on The GROUND Magazine
Do you remember the feeling of falling in love and losing all sorts of inhibitions and limitations? Do you remember feeling the same way after few years and smiling about it? Well, this is what “Coexist” is all about and yes, The XX may sound the same as on their debut album but you are in for a listening that will remind you of all the reasons why you fell in love with them in the first place.
It is a dark, fragile, and honest 38 minutes conversation between the voices of Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim about love, separation, and coexisting together of course. Their unique style is once again channeled through whispers, subtle sounds, and almost imperceptible elements and for this reason, this long awaited second release will please both fans and everybody coming across this record.
The conversation begins with a monologue sung by Romy. It is the leading single, “Angels”, and from the first line “Light reflects from your shadow, it is more than I thought could exist” we are already in the presence of an angel, singing with its soft and innocent voice, coming from far, far away and yet so close to the listener and Oliver, the human being in this conversation with his warm and earthly voice that opens the second single,”Chained”. Together they sing “We used to be closer than this” as if love between a flawed creature like him and an immaculate angel could be possible.
Following the script of their 2009 album, it is time for Oliver’s soliloquy, remember “Fantasy”? This time it is called “Fiction” and this is what he feels when they are not together. The line recites “Fiction, when we are not together. Mistaken for a vision, something of my own creation. I wake up alone”. Every sensation is sharpened by minimalist and accurate arrangements until the turning point is reached with “Sunset”, where beat after beat separation becomes a reality. “Coexist” becomes darker and almost oppressive. For a second, in “Missing”, music suddenly stops as if Oliver’s heart skipped a beat… “My heart is beating in a different way” continues the track in such an unexpected change of direction. Artfully accomplished.
“Unfold” is another beautiful example of how XX’s gifted voices deliver straight into your ears and right through your heart all the familiar feelings that love can bring. They effortlessly manage to do this and the privateness of their conversation is also an unavoidable conversation with ourselves. You are simply left “Swept Away”, as the title of the penultimate song where the light shines in again and here, love couldn’t be better turned into lyrics, “I get swept away when I think of you. I’m soothed by you. You take it all away. I lose to you, surrendered at the start of the game”. It is uplifting, energising, and influenced by house beats brought by XX’s member, producer, and remix artist Jamie xx, aka Jamie Smith.
Oliver and the angel close the album together and it is stunningly romantic. “All I have, I will give to you. And we’ll be us.”. It is their moment, their song, and it is called “Our Song”. An “X” can mean so many different things and if another “X” comes along, they don’t necessarily have to mean the same thing in order to coexist. The moment they surrender to love is the moment when separation disappears, “The walls I hide behind, you walk through. You just walk through”.
What about the meaning of The XX as a band? Their essence is the same, mysterious and yet closely confidential. In a world where everybody tries too hard to stay on top of their success, they just refined their abilities as musicians and songwriters. This is not stepping back from taking risks but rather a clever and mature way to acknowledge their talent and how it reaches their ever growing audience.