Last June when I had to a chance to see the xx live in Kansas City at the Uptown, a point I drove home in my subsequent review is how dependent the trio is on silence. In a song like "Missing" from 2012's Coexist, it's so brutally stark you can hear the proverbial pin drop. Mere seconds tick off the clock, but it feels like an eternity. In that absence of sound, you feel trapped. Anxiety can kick in because you're no longer sure what you're supposed to be doing. And then at the last second, Romy Madley Croft's luminous guitar swoops down to save the day.
In xx beatmaker Jamie xx's latest solo effort "Sleep Sound" there's no savior act. Granted the same sort of silence doesn't dominate the track, though there still is sublime tension to it. In his short write-up for Stereogum Miles Bowe calls it "room-filling" and he's right, insomuch as it is lines every corner of the room. A patter of drums and what register as faint harp plucks do exist, they're just never firmly in front of you. Instead, they hide in those aforementioned corners beckoning you into the shadows. Sampled vocals softly stutter "ooh ooh ooh" before a low-end bass rumble and jittery drum-machine pattern obscure them. "Sleep Sound" is the sort of track you'll leave on repeat, if only to discover everything that's going on. Silence is not just profound, it's alluring.
"Sleep Sound" is part of a double A-side single along with "Girl" that will be out May 5 via Young Turks.