the xx take center stage at the guggenheim, share new album details
Wednesday night, i-D got down at the Guggenheim’s Dior-sponsored International Gala pre-party. While the night at the museum might not have featured dueling dinosaurs and ancient Egyptian mummies, it did see Raf Simons and A$AP Rocky swaying to the...
Clad in all black Dior (of course), Jamie Smith, Romy Madley Croft, and Oliver Sim ascended a circular stage at the center of the museum's iconic Frank Lloyd Wright-designed rotunda. Illuminated by an enormous white balloon featuring projections by the late German artist Otto Piene suspended over the stage, the the London-based trio opened the night's performance with "Angels," the lead single off their smash sophomore album Coexist.
The xx are no strangers to out-of-the-box performances. Last year, the band curated "Day + Night," a series of three festival-style shows at unconventional spaces (Lisbon's waterfront park Jardim da Torres de Belëm, Berlin's beloved abandoned amusement park, Spreepark, and the grounds of Hertfordshire's Hatfield House) which featured performances by Kindness, Solange, London Grammar, Jon Hopkins, Mount Kimbie, and Polica.
Earlier this year, the band had an 11-night residency at New York's Park Avenue Armory. Instead of packing the space's 55,000 square feet with fans, the trio flipped the idea of a traditional rock show on its head by performing twice nightly for audiences of only 45 people. Armory audiences entered a 60 feet wide white cube structure through a series of tunnels, arriving to find the band waiting on a sunken-in stage. Romy explained that the idea behind the design was to rekindle the intimacy of the band's early shows, to come face to face with their audience in a brand new way. Elevated a mere four feet off the ground and with Romy's gentle guitar hooks reverberating inside of the museum's iconic dome, the Guggenheim performance captured a similar sense of intimacy.
While quicker-paced crowd pleasers like "Fiction" and "Islands" had Marion Cotillard, Dev Hynes, Karlie Kloss, Greta Gerwig, and Raf Simons bopping to the beat, it was carefully rearranged versions of songs like "Stars" and a slower-burning "Crystallised" that really brought the crowd to its knees (literally, in the case of Hanne Gaby Odiele, who got a bit tired of leaning on the museum's ramp and decided to kneel for a lil minute.)
At the set's closing, Romy and Oliver expressed massive gratitude to the Guggenheim for hosting them, recalling the band's first visit to the museum in between playing their first New York shows back in 2009. In the five years since releasing their debut self titled album, the band has shot to super-stardom: nabbing the 2010 Mercury Prize and seeing their music featured during NBC's coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
The xx are presently working on their third LP, giving more insight into its development via a newsletter this week: "This year has been a creative one for us so far, we have been hard at work writing and recording new music in a few different places around the world. In the spring we spent a few weeks in the incredible and unique town of Marfa in Texas. Then, in summer, we spent some time just outside of Reykjavik in Iceland. This autumn we have been back in London, writing and having some time at home but this week we are heading out to Los Angeles to continue the writing and recording process. Although all very different, each of these places have been inspirational environments to create music in, and each will have an influence on the new album. The whole process is a big adventure and we can't wait for a time when we'll be able to share the music with you."
If The Guggenheim's pitch-perfect performance is any indication of what's in store for this third album, as usual, the xx have got our hearts skipping a beat.
Text Emily Manning
Photography Barbara Anastacio