Sixth in Sixes
xbxrx plays hardcore punk stuff crossed with some no-wave guitars, with lots of hardcore tempos and hyperactivity. The band likes to write lots of odd breaks into their songs, and the vocals range from shouting to screaming (from which they still wring a fair amount of variety). Overall, the band members put an impressive amount of work into their songs. They really like the part of the song where it gets quiet right before the dynamic change, and then they start and stop things when you're not expecting it.
"Gold Cross" is a good example of their methodology: the song has six sections to it, separated by odd breaks. It starts off like their big rock song, but then moves through a dissonant rock section to a more straightforward punk section, a jagged instrumental, and a more dissonant punk part, and then goes back to the something that goes back to the third punkish section. That's a lot of ideas to cram into a 1:52 song. And the textural variety keeps it all interesting.
The xbxrx folks also write more straightforward songs, as well. "Deceiver's Voice" is very brutal and effective, for one; it's a more straightforward hardcore punk song, a great Shellac-style track, with lots of dissonant, drone-y guitars (of course). "Beat Rolls On" sounds like their big anthem, with keyboards and stuff (reminds me of Deerhoof if set to "stun"), 'til they start a big atmospheric keyboard-driven bridge ending that sounds like it's powering them up -- cheesy but amusing.
All in all, an interesting effort. Definitely worth checking out. (HM)
(Polyvinyl Record Co. -- P.O. Box 7140, Champaign, IL. 61826; http://www.polyvinylrecords.com/; xbxrx -- http://www.xbxrx.com/)
In an interview a few years back with Jamie Stewart, the creative force behind Xiu Xiu, the interviewer pointed out to Stewart that whenever people heard Xiu Xiu's music, a typical reaction was often "Is this a joke?" Stewart's response was to chuckle and say "Notice I'm laughing, so perhaps it is!"
Since that time, Stewart's music has evolved, but it still will leave you either wholly loving it or wholly hating it. In fact, Stewart has also commented on how he prefers it that way. Essentially, a release by Xiu Xiu has to be challenging to listen to in order for Stewart to be satisfied with it.
To get a feel for the sound of La Forêt, imagine a trembling male voice whispering into a four-track about some nondescript bum-out ("I tried hard to be good to you"), random acoustic guitar plucking, and then occasional screams, bells, and walls of guitar fuzz/distortion. Some people have referred to this kind of thing as "Industrial Folk." There are, however, a couple songs on La Forêt that sound like actual music you could listen to without wanting to kill yourself, particularly "Pox" and "Muppet Face." But as if Stewart realized that these songs might actually be fun to listen to, he managed to fill the rest of the CD with ear trauma just so we remember it's not for everybody.
Given this, and following a couple spins of La Forêt, I'm reminded of the first time I saw a Mark Rothko painting. I turned to my friend and said something like, "Are you shitting me? It's a fucking red square. And not even a good one. Why the hell is this hanging in a museum? Will someone tell the Emperor that he has no clothes on, please?" My friend tried to explain how the painting was all about "challenging your concept of art," and that it was priceless and in a museum because he (Rothko) was the first one to do it.
So, yeah, La Forêt is challenging, and Xiu Xiu's sound is pretty unique. But is staring at a square your idea of entertainment? Boooooo. (DH)
(5 Rue Christine -- P.O. Box 1190, Olympia, WA. 98507; http://www.5rc.com/; Xiu Xiu -- http://www.xiuxiu.org/)