Into the Unknown: Jamie XX – Far Nearer

I tried to avoid it again this month, the semi big name, the rising star that everyone’s watching, but sometimes the masses are right.

There’s been rumblings that he’s ripping off Burial

Since the four late London teens started The XX their inimitable sound has had a huge amount to do with Jamie Smith. I remember the first time I saw them, around 2008 at the sorely missed Bardens Boudoir in East London, Jamie tapped his beats out onto a digital sampler, hit for hit, awkward yet commanding. It’s a modern sight that may well become the norm, the upright digital drummer, Kraftwerk still creep in don’t they? He had an air of knowledge about him, knew what he was doing and was truly comfortable with his own sound. The XX went on to win the Mercury Music Prize and their music was used in hundreds of sombre, thought provoking TV adverts. Their sound was born, grew up, was sold, pillaged and came out the end of it still sounding great.

Kraftwerk still creep in don’t they?

So since then Jamie hasn’t rested, turning his hand to remixes for the likes Adele and Jack Penate climaxing in the reprise of the Gil Scott-Heron album I’m New Here.  He retained the great mans vocals whilst adding his distinctive production skills to the LP, all this only a few months before the sad passing of Mr Scott-Heron, poignant timing indeed.

I spotted with some anticipation his new single Far Nearer on Bleep.com and as soon as I heard the steel drums I was fixed. That magical, far off sound is instantly timeless. But with any track by the young producer you know there’s a beat, you wonder how it’ll come and how it’ll fit to this Carribean groove, it comes a minute and a half into the six minute plus track, the quick skipping bass drum, three to the one of the crisp snare. Off kilter, slightly sparse, with the deep seeded bass that screams for the Funktion 1 soundsystem. Dubby dancefloor tunes of the moment usually opt for the female vocal, calling and responding to the reverberating bass line, but this song opts for a pitched down male vocal with the line ‘’I feel better’’ repeating in different forms throughout. The drops in the track are accentuated with hypnotic swooshes only to be taken over by the beat that returns and pushes the track on. Friendly to the dancefloor and friendly to you, home alone. It’s beat heavy, which in this day and age is nothing new, but with the timeless melody of the steel drum it gives you something its rival tracks will never have.

There’s been rumblings that he’s ripping off Burial, stealing the vocal styles, minor chords and vacant mood. I just don’t think that’s the case, they’ve both evolved from the same city at the same time. Maybe they sound the same as they grew up in the same environment but both are individualists in their own right. While Burial remains in the Shadows, Jamie XX stays just adjacent to the spotlight, continuing the kinetic energy from The debut XX album and moving into tunes that allow him to show the dubby hip-hop influences he’s so fond of.

Word on the street is steel pans may feature on the next XX album, we wait, only they’ll decide when it’s right and good luck to them. But let’s not forget Jamie XX stands strong on his own.

Out now on Glasgow’s Numbers label.

For the last two months I’ve focused on tracks by fairly well known artists, especially for those reading this. It’s just the way it’s gone and they’ve been the tunes with the best vibe at the time, next month I promise it’s going to be less known.


Liam runs the small but potentially revolutionary radio station Different Class Radio, he just needs that one idea.

Trebuchet Magazine
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