Posted by: Necci – Sep 19, 2012
If The xx's eponymous effort seemed to thrive at night, Coexist begins the party a little earlier in the afternoon. A little less stark, Coexist's graduation in terms of warmth and feel (notably pertaining to vocal delivery) is faultless. This seems very telling of their ensemble development. One is almost reminded of the loosened grip on intensity that enthralled so many with Interpol's shift from Turn On The Bright Lights to Antics.
Some parts of the progress are immediately apparent, such as the larger washes of texture in the background, giving that added colour and new warmth. However, the greatest rewards come from the less obvious advances. There’s a more melodic shapeliness to The xx's infamously minimalist space that carves out prettier, more rounded foundations than the debut. Jamie's rhythms and use of syncopation and space have a much more varied pulse (see "Reunion," "Missing"), which adds so much to the album's structure. And who would’ve ever thought you’d hear a steel drum in an xx soundscape?
The reduction of guitar is one of the few changes I noticed--it takes on an even more supplementary role than before. One senses that Romy & Co. might’ve been of the mindset that the first album’s guitar came close to repetitive in its simplicity, and subsequently avoided this danger. The vocal duo of Romy and Oliver is more expressive without going overboard and ruining, in its sophomore refinement, their sound’s lofty balance. The success of Coexist is ultimately about the beauty of small change with big effect, especially in such a spare environment.
By Daryl Tankersley