The xx

xx

This U.K. quartet, just of drinking age, has debuted to swells of hype with music so spare it’s barely possible to tell what four people do on their tracks.

Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim spar too cleanly for their own good, evoking the Kills, Tricky and Martina Topley-Bird, Young Marble Giants, and PJ Harvey’s Uh Huh Her on their overly palm-muted duets, yet they are far less engaged or synced with each other than any of those mentioned.

They don’t sound like they’re singing to, or even at, each other at all. This unrelenting detachment throughout xx is covered up with pools of tasteful reverb and a penchant for hooks more reliable than catchy. It feels like there should be a service charge.

Nevertheless, the oddness and improbability of this group have imbued them with such mystique I keep listening anyway, for secret new chord changes among the plentiful spaces and resting spots; for sexy clues in the lyrics, ominous guitar tones wafting over the landscape, subtle hooks that find their way despite their somewhat incomplete construction.

Certain key cuts help keep up the pretense that there’s more there: the unexpected gallop trick of “Basic Space” (neutered somewhat by its undynamic remix), the Sleater-Kinney-style riff on “Crystalised,” wherein no light escapes.

Without doubt, xx leaves you wanting more. It just takes a while to figure out if that’s in the bad way or not.

I’ve played it often to make up my mind, which should be a testament to its time-worn-and-worn-again captivation technique: Less and less is more and more.

Dan Weiss, Philadelphia Inquirer

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