Thursday, 14 January 2010

xx art show lacks Saam's spark

The xx forged a formidable reputation in 2009 for the stunning after-midnight mood music that comprised their debut album. Voted near or at the zenith of several end-of year-polls, the Putney-educated quartet (now trio after the departure of keyboardist Baria Quresh) achieved great things with deceptively simple songs ostensibly hued from whispers and longing, tears and aching.

When it was announced that innovative music promo director Saam Farahmand was producing a video installation piece involving the album, a richly creative meeting of minds and solid collaboration was the minimum which fans of either could realistically expect.

After all, Farahmand is best known for his regularly impressive work with day-glo slackers Klaxons and has also turned in memorable videos for acts Simian Mobile Disco and New Young Pony Club.

Unfortunately, when viewing The xx installation in the basement of Vinyl Factory, in Soho's Poland Street, it was hard not to feel slightly underwhelmed.

Three individual column speakers arranged in a triangle formation were fitted with small, sunken TV screens a few metres apart in a vast empty room. The speakers played the aforementioned album, while the tv screens showed pre-recorded footage of individual band members singing and playing instruments in time with their respective recorded parts. White light dimmed and brightened to emphasise relevant basslines, guitar parts and beats in time with the music.

This may sound rudimentary in the extreme - and it was. For an audience now hardened to challenging and sophisticated art stunts and even blockbuster movies as obsequiously stunning and visually complex as Avatar 3D, it was hard not to feel somewhat undersold.

A missed opportunity this time, but given The xx's refreshing approach to creatively bankrupt endeavours like cover versions, it's impossible not to write this off as a blip at the start of an auspicious career. After all, if they can breath new life into evergreen house classic You Got The Love and Womack and Womack's life-affirming pop-soul standard Teardrops, they can surely overcome this minor setback.

As for Farahmand? If Spike Jonze is anything to go by, he'll rise again, just sharper and weirder next time.

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