Damn baby, this is some raw shiz. Even after reading several glowing reviews of their debut album Knife Play, I missed the boat on the band named Xiu Xiu, and now it looks like I'm going to have to dive in the bay and swim for it. Less than a year after dropping that last release, the group is back with 5 tracks and just under 20 minutes of stripped-down, go-for-the-throat music. Most people would cringe when they hear this stuff, but it's so damn primal that I can't help but crack a smile.
Comprised of minimal beats, gongs, bells, drones, synths, and guitars, this release heaves and moans like it's alive. When you add the downright agonized sound (at least, much of the time) of lead singer Jamie Stewart's vocals, it's definitely not something you'll be playing at the family picnic. "I Am The Center Of Your World" opens with some muffled beats and jangly piano and guitar before a frenzy of chimes and percussion squalls forth. Stewart sings in sort of a contemplative haze, and the track doesn't so much as crescendo as split at the seams before falling apart again.
Leave it to a track named "Jennifer Lopez (The Sweet Science Version)" to rip the roof off things, but instead of with a booty beat, the track blasts distorted horns, a melancholy harmonium, and some offset drum machine pitter patter before the chorus absolutely shreiks and Stewart unleashes his gutteral yelp. "Ten Thousand Times A Minute" drops things off to only chimes and a wails of guitar feedback that sound like lonely whale calls while "King Earth, King Earth" strips things down even more with a wobbly sample, occassional percussive clicks, and a slight wheeze from the harmonium.
To close things out, the group treads on what many would consider sacred ground in covering a Joy Division track ("Ceremony"), but their scrap-heap-with-a-heart version is so brash and inventive that it's hard to find too much fault. So, as stated above, Xiu Xiu is definitely not for everyone. As stripped-down and sparse as this EP is, there's still something oddly compelling about the group, and I know that I'm going to have to hunt down their full-length now.