The XX & Jagwar Ma – Hordern Pavilion, Sydney
Quietly, but completely The xx have stunned the world into captivation. Their raw talent; etheral vocals, stirring bass and clever electronics have infactuated the hearts of audiences world wide. Recently they toured Australia and on the 6th & 7th of April played two sold out shows at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney. Notably the last time The xx played in Sydney was to a crowd of a few hundred in the afternoon sun at Laneway Festival.
What a contrast.
Accompanying The xx on tour and opening all of their shows were Australian lads, Jagwar Ma. Originally from Sydney Jagwar Ma is the collaborative effort of Gabriel Winterfield, Jono Ma and Jack Freedman. With varied musical backgrounds; Ma from the Lost Valentinos and Winterfield from Ghostwood the trio have used their culminated musical backgrounds to create a multifaceted sound that is vivacious, energetic and unique.
Like a psychedelic kalidescope of sounds and colours The Hordern came alive as the trio spilt on to the stage, playing and dancing with an infectious but casual effervescence. As Jagwar Ma’s tracks unravel a spectrum of genres splinter their music; one minute you’re focusing on high pitched wavering vocals, the next its 90 inspired thudding techno, jungle infused beats, jazz tones or marbled electronic synths. As the set progresses you’re overwhelmed with co-current feelings of nostalgia and foresight and you realize just how intelligent Jagwar Ma’s music production is.
To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect from The xx show, it’s not exactly the type of gig you can go along to, stuff your face full of pingers and moonwalk round the dance floor. Instead I settled for the prospect of sitting on the floor and settling down for a big old cry. As I joined the crowd in a stillness and silence, collectively holding our breath while we waited for them to play, I realised that wasn’t unlikely at all.
Watching The xx perform was nothing short of a religious experience. The celestial, austere beauty of their music leaves you drunk and drowsy with emotion while the muffled, harrowing depth of reverberating bass drags you down into their web, smothering you with a sweet masochism that moves you to the point of stillness. While they played the tension in the room was palpable, manifesting itself into a haze of sentiment and floating only inches above crowd.
Truly unique in their production The xx create music that inhabits the ambiguous space between silence and noise. The palette of hushed tones, resonating bass, echoing vocals and deep looping synths fuse and intensify as they disperse. Dripping with a gorgeous intimacy they scoop up the emotions of the audience before floating away, in a cyclical motion back to the mouths and hands of The xx. It’s this motion that allows subjectivity to become a foundational element of The xx’s music and each listen is accompanied by a blank canvas on which the lines of re-contexulization and interpretation can be scrawled and scribbled independently.
You’d think that for music that is notorious for being deeply pacified, ethereal and subdued there wouldn’t be much space for a ‘performance’ around it. Incorrect. The xx have clearly considered that space and ambience completely change the consumption of music. Capitalizing on the immensity of the Hordern and the richness of the sound it offers they tweak and lift some of their tracks, notably, Islands and Crystalized, until they teeter dangerously close to the edge of optimism and just for a moment the audience start to shuffle, sway and tap along before the bass plunges everything back down to the point of cerebral sentimentality.
On point, Re-union is a musical self fulfilling prophecy as Romy croons in her devastatingly beautiful voice “Did I see you, see me, in a new light? Words have never seemed so poignant as in that precise moment of realization; that The xx blesses you with freedom and beauty of subjectivity with each listen.
As they closed their show with an encore of Infinity I realised that I’d spent the entire show covered in goosebumps, intoxicated and high on their talent alone. Watching the effect it had on others was just as sweet; like observing the exact moment that the beauty of an artwork unfurls into the eyes of those that see it, staining their hearts as it goes…
Words – The Other Jess
Photographs courtesy of The xx and Jagwar Ma.