The wait will soon be over: On September 11, Coexist, the second album from London’s the xx, will be released in the U.S. Their eponymous debut was praised all over the world, and after a long tour and a heap of awards, the quiet trio have become a rare thing for independent artists: rock stars. Romy Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim, who share vocal and guitar/bass duties, and producer Jamie Smith (who stayed busy under the Jamie xx moniker) have cited much stronger club and house influences for the upcoming record – an adjustment to the dark, sensuous mood that permeated xx.
But the band’s debut songs have proven utterly mash- and mixable (just spend a couple of minutes on Soundcloud or Hype Machine), and they’ve found their way into scores of electronic, house and dub remixes made by some of the most talented producers around. To make these last few weeks a little more bearable, Prefix has gathered our favorite xx remixes and reworks to prime you for Coexist.
Panic City: “Chained”
“Chained,” the second single from Coexist, showcases Jamie Smith’s greater stature in the direction of the band’s sound. The lyrics are consummately pained and full of longing, but the beat and instrumentation – apart from that climbing guitar fretwork toward the end – is mostly driven by low synth parts. Panic City blasts the track into full club-banger mode, injecting it with massive house beats and an insistent thumping bass.
Recorded during a BBC Radio 1 performance in 2010, Gorillaz’ cover of “Crystalised” is both delicate and urgent, a balance beam walked so well by the xx themselves. Damon Albarn’s voice is a close approximation of Oliver Sim’s, and the warm piano and chiming xylophone leave open gaps where bass notes kept the rhythm in the original. You can’t exactly dance to it, but it’s too pretty to care.
Wait What: “Dead Wrong Intro”
An oldie but a goodie, “Dead Wrong Intro” was the leading track from Wait What’s excellent 2010 mashup album of classic Notorious B.I.G. songs and the xx’s debut from 2009. There’s something arresting in the contrast between Biggie’s aggressive flow and the mellow but quietly sinister guitar melodies of “Intro,” and somehow, it all makes sense – when their wordless vocal harmony comes in right after “Know what I mean,” Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim seem to know all too well.
Nosaj Thing: “Islands”
L.A.’s Nosaj Thing chose one of xx’s more upbeat tracks for this blend of cavernous dub bass and anxious, snappy beats. After applying a swerving hip-hop treatment to the song’s melody, Madley-Croft and Sim’s lyrics play through with few effects, making the mix relatively faithful. It’s also short and sweet, like the original – but it departs in the outro, where chopped vocals and a heavier house sound make for a trance that ends all too quickly.
The Confectionery: “Angels”
The Confectionery takes a more organic look at “Angels” by adding a live drum track and unassuming synth notes, blending the original’s vocals in and out of a smoky background. It’s one of the more unassuming remixes of “Angels,” but it’ll get your feet tapping in no time.
The xx: “You’ve Got the Love” [Florence + the Machine]
We’re cheating a little by including this track; after all, this is a remix by, not of, the xx. Keeping only those plucky harp notes and Florence Welch’s soaring chorus, which doesn’t make it through unaltered, Jamie Smith’s rework of Florence + the Machine’s “You’ve Got the Love,” itself a cover of Candi Staton’s 1986 original, might as well be a canonical xx track at this point. The high-pitch string notes are counterbalanced by a throbbing, lowering bass sequence, deep negative space and soulful vocal work. It’s an excellent song, and it anticipates Coexist‘s new direction.
Dark Sky: “Crystalised”
A disarmingly slow-paced, druggy track from the onset, Dark Sky’s take on “Chrystalised” picks up about a minute in, warping Romy Madley-Croft’s vocals into staccato punctuation. The ethereal bridge floats in a way Jamie xx might have put together himself, and the track winds down in a haze. Madley-Croft’s voice, already the soulful center of many xx songs, is highlighted here in a brilliant way.
John Talabot: “Shelter”
Barcelona’s John Talabot takes “Shelter,” a particularly low-key song from an album of low keys, and soups it up with spacious, deep bass tones and an energetic, sunny suite of drums. The line “Can I make it better with the lights turned on” was full of bitterness in the original xx track, as if the speaker were desperate in her effort to mend some wrong. In Talabot’s version, the lights are turned way up, and the emotion morphs into joy.
An exercise in restraint, Bodhi’s recent remix of the first single from Coexist, “Angels,” ratchets up the slow, mournful original with quick mechanical pulses. In the flood of “Angels” remixes to surface in the song’s wake, Bodhi’s take is fairly straightforward – but it takes a careful hand to let the song’s delicate signatures shine through the normally dominant themes of electronic reboots.
Four Tet: “VCR”
The gold standard for clubbing up tracks from the xx’s debut, the Four Tet remix of “VCR” is a sprawling landscape of a song. London’s Four Tet, an alumnus of the same Elliott School that counts Burial, Hot Chip and members of the xx as graduates, released the remix in 2010, and none of its charm has been lost with age. Clocking in at just under nine minutes, it’s about three times longer than the original, but it glides along quickly, with a couple of notable turns: At about the three minute mark, when the beat fades away to let the song’s signature chime melody take center stage, and about six minutes in, when Four Tet’s synth additions overwhelm the backbeat and make the song his own. Like any truly great remix, it pays full homage to the original before repainting it with broad, immanently danceable strokes.
Listen to the Top 10 The xx Remixes continuously below: