November 7, 2002

Test Spin: Xiu Xiu

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You could never say that Xiu Xiu doesn’t have a unique sound. Combining ’80s synth-pop with spiky electronics and percussion that’s half Buddhist monastery, half kid-banging-on-a-trashcan, their debut Knife Play was a claustrophobic, layered, and often terrifying record. On this new EP, the band mostly concentrates on their moodier side. The abrasive (and excellent) “Jennifer Lopez” is the only track to truly up the noise quotient, dashing along on foreboding electronics and spurts of percussive dissonance.

“I Am the Center of Your World,” on the other hand, is held afloat by a barely-there heartbeat rhythm while Jamie Stewart moans miserably above occasional outbursts of bells and piano. “King Earth, King Earth” and “Ten-Thousand-Times-a-Minute” keep things even more low-key; both make a centerpiece of Stewart’s melodramatic vox.

The closing cover of Joy Division’s “Ceremony” finds the band at their peppiest, channeling the Cure and using their unique percussion, for once, to create a jubilant but troubled air. Stewart’s Robert-Smith-being-tortured impression veers from wildly happy to suicidal in the same breath.

Overall, this is a great little sampling of Xiu Xiu’s peculiar brand of ’80s flashback. And you won’t even need to put on your goth makeup to enjoy it.

Archived article by Ed Howard