I couldn't possibly finish this year without writing another Xiu Xiu review. My favourite anguish punk artists are releasing two singles in a row.
The first one is a split 7" featuring the final song by Bay area slowcore band Bunkbed and a cover of Bunkbed's "Fake Soul" by Xiu Xiu. The real surprise here is the Bunkbed track. Not that the Xiu Xiu piece isn't good, it is, but the Bunkbed song, "Fallen Angel II" is brilliant. It's reminiscent of Low with more keyboards, the shoegazer's guide to Low. It's very very good. I hadn't heard of Bunkbed before -mainly because Keith Crate, the man behing Bunkbed, died two years ago- and this makes me want to listen to their records. Jamie Stewart -the awesome man behind Xiu Xiu- was a long time friend of Crate's, and both had collaborated during the Bunkbed recordings. The Xiu Xiu track keeps the same slow pace, the same eerie harmonium, with dolphin echoes and sparse percussion drenched in reverb. Of course it stills sounds bare, despite the reverb, it still sounds like Xiu Xiu, it still sounds like a man ripping his guts out, still affective, making me oh so empathetic. Towards the end your ears explode and you die.
The second one is a two-tracks cd single released by Spanish label Acuarela. First track is titled "Fleshettes" and sounds like it's about someone who's lost the lower half of his body, which isn't nice. It features sounds of drills and machinery reminiscent of Matmos and out of tune guitars intertwining, and Jamie Stewart breathing out words like "if you pass under a rainbow you will turn from a girl into a boy." It's more experimental and less beat-driven than the songs on Fabulous Muscles, but still less aggressive than A Promise's experimental tracks. The second song is a new version of "Helsabot," a song Stewart had written and recorded with Ten in the Swear Jar, his previous band, and re-recorded for Xiu Xiu's haunting Fag Patrol. Here it is sung by Caralee McElroy the other half of Xiu Xiu's current line-up. She's got a cute soft fragile voice and sings it very well. The tempo has slowed down as much as it could, Jamie Stewart plays guitar in the back. This version works very very well.
Both records look great and should make great presents for your 12 years-old nephew.
/dec 15th 2004/