The xx's sleeper electro-soul debut was defined by its silences as much as its sounds: by the pauses between dusty, cymbal-less beats, stoned basslines, and echoing guitar pings, and by the pregnant tension between the voices (the unison NyQuil croons of Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim). The British trio's insular, minimal approach was so distinct in the crowded, show-off-y landscape of indie music that it became iconic almost immediately. And the critical drool was well-deserved: three years later, the xx are just as haunting as they were back in 2009. But talk about sophomore-album pressure! Having a patented style means your music stands out in a crowd — but a trademark can also become a crutch. Coexist commences with "Angels," a sleek, barely-there slow-jam that's so unmistakably precious, so firmly within their wheelhouse, it seems to ask, "Hey, you guys still dig that whole 'minimalism' thing, right?" No, the xx haven't developed much as songwriters since their homonymous debut — they still play as if they're soundtracking the quietest slow-motion make-out session in make-out history, still squeezing out rudimentary soul melodies from thin air, still playing as little as possible to make the biggest impression. There aren't many surprises, yet most tracks still inevitably seduce the senses and have their way with them. And where the writing has remained stagnant, the production has bloomed: the club-inspired Coexist puts more emphasis on the ass-rattling low end, as on the standout single "Chained," which thrives on Sim's unrelenting bass pulse and Jamie Smith's clockwork beats. "Reunion" continuously reinvents itself, building from spiraling steel-drum ambience into a wicked dubstep groove. At a certain point, the xx need to turn off that reverb pedal and learn to sing above a whisper — but I'll be damned if they haven't worked their magic again.
THE XX + CHAIRLIFT | House of Blues, 15 Lansdowne St, Boston | October 25 @ 7 pm | All ages | $30-$45 | 617.693.2583