Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

  • SoundStage! Shorts - Livio Cucuzza on Audio Research's Industrial Design (November 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Past, Present, and Future (October 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - KEF's New R Series for 2018 (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio Moon 390 Digital/Analog Preamplifier and Streamer (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - EISA 2018-2019 Awards Introduction (August 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio's $118,888 Moon 888 Mono Amplifiers (June 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Totem's Tribe Tower (May 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion's Three Newest Argon Loudspeakers (April 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Making the Hegel Mohican CD Player (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Estelon Lynx Wireless Intelligent Loudspeaker (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh's Five New Solid-State Integrated Amplifiers (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Amphion's Krypton Loudspeaker (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Anthem STR Preamplifier and Power Amplifier (December 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh Laboratory MA252 Integrated Amplifier (November 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Hegel H90 and H190 Integrated Amplifiers (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - How Hegel's SoundEngine Works (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight  - Estelon History and YB and Extreme Loudspeakers (September 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - What Makes Hegel Different? (August 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Estelon Extreme Legacy Edition Loudspeaker (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion Overview and Technologies (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! Insight - Totem Acoustic Signature One Loudspeaker (June 2017)
  • SoundStage! Encore - The Cowboy Junkies'
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Anthem's STR Integrated Amplifier (May 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Paradigm's Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) Lenses (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Persona 9H Loudspeaker (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Contrasts: Dynaudio's Contour and Focus XD Speaker Lines (February 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - New Technologies in MartinLogan's Masterpiece Series
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Dynaudio/Volkswagen Car Audio (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Gryphon Philosophy and the Kodo and Mojo S Speakers (January 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- What's a Tonmeister? (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - AxiomAir N3 Wireless Speaker System (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Gryphon Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Dynaudio History and Driver Technology (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - The Story How Gryphon Began (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Devialet History, ADH Technology, and Expert 1000 Pro (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Devialet's Phantom Loudspeakers (August 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh Home Theater and Streaming Audio (July 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh MC275 Stereo Amplifier (June 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh History and Autoformer Technology (June 2016)

CoexistXL/Young Turks YT 080CD
Format: CD

Musical Performance ****
Sound Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****


Preferring to download singles in lieu of full albums, the digital generation’s greatest shortcoming may be its lack of patience, a characteristic born of the instantaneous gratification afforded by broadband Internet. This has led to a great deal of popular modern music being terrible: abject garbage that relies on a tried-and-true formula of Pro Tools software, a particular BPM tool, and a catchy harmony. And the word lyrics hardly seems an appropriate description for much of the verbal drivel that blasts from pop and hip-hop radio stations.

The xx’s three twentysomethings from London are refreshing in this regard: There was no saccharine or overprocessed character in their eponymous 2009 debut album. Despite earning sweeping praise for that effort, the group has not turned mainstream with the follow-up, Coexist. Even more musically spare than xx, the new album is less playful, and more consistent in delivery. Whereas xx comprised a collection of discrete (and excellent) tunes perhaps befitting a self-produced album, Coexist is very much a single narrative in 11 tracks, a meditation on sorrow as surprisingly ruminative as it is mature.

The singing of the cooing Romy Madley Croft and the measured Oliver Sim is not the angst-ridden stuff normally accompanying young heartbreak, which is the focus of most of these songs’ lyrics. Indeed, while the words themselves are not particularly inspired, their delivery is compelling. The modest musical accompaniment of electric guitars and synthesizers is reminiscent of Explosions in the Sky and Sigur Rós, with background themes propelling without ever overshadowing the often tandem vocals. This balance is what makes the untraditional production so compelling. The toe-tapping rhythms of "Chained," "Fiction," and "Sunset" are every bit as engaging as more conventional alternative or indie-rock songs, but their simplicity allows the contours of the well-recorded voices to be heard without difficulty. Croft and Sim are richly rendered, and don’t sound as if they’ve been run through a digital filter.

Sandwiching those three tracks (and two others) are the opener, "Angels," and "Missing," which counterbalance each another: "Angels" is light on its feet, effortless and ethereal, recounting a romantic relationship at its most content, while "Missing" captures the starkness of loneliness and loss. The finale, "Our Song," brings closure to this somewhat somber 37-minute affair, offering ellipses both lyrical ("You just walk through . . .") and musical: the song’s final 30 seconds record an open microphone collecting transient noise, punctuated by ten seconds of silence.

The recording is a sonic pleasure. Croft’s and Sim’s closely miked voices take center stage, with plenty of texture on tap. The sparse arrangements serve only to further emphasize the voices. Coexist’s inviting ambience is one of its defining features, and rewards turning up the volume -- the enormous soundscapes are clear as day, and a pleasure to explore. The production quality is superb.

Some reviewers have been somewhat less than impressed with Coexist, perhaps because it’s less an evolution of the xx’s sound than a more focused and attuned version of it. A full appreciation of the precocious trio’s musical talent and vision warrants several listens. This will give the patient listener time to fully explore the English production, as well as the studio space in which it was recorded. The xx having honed their craft this second time around; one can only hope they will tread new ground going forward.

. . . Hans Wetzel