Xiu Xiu

Xiu Xiu

Xiu Xiu



Beautiful deconstructions of a beautiful deconstructionist. One chameleon almost out shapeshifts another. All that remains consistent is the tone and timbre of Simone’s voice, reflected in the defiant, fight-or-flight despair of Jamie Stewart.

Nina Simone is an audacious undertaking, usually one only left to (weirdly) tone-deaf Starbucks jazz artists — hell, a coked-up David Bowie even bailed after one foray into Simone’s work — but the shadowy Xiu Xiu undertake a full album of the jazz titan’s best work. “Don’t Smoke In Bed,” “Wild Is The Wind,” “You’d Be So Nice,” all tackled and petulantly reshaped into liquid pools of hurt, amorphous fragmented sonics suddenly joined seamlessly with a single line of a Simone lyric. There is a definite and oh so appropriate lineage here.

The electro Xiu Xiu of “Fabulous Muscles” seems so far away now; this is an altogether more torchy, elegant affair. Saxophones, guitars, piano, drums, ancient electronics all clash, swirl, and shriek around the bare bones of Simone’s compositions — held together by Stewart’s intimate vocal tremor, like he’s whispering in your ear, the voice inside your head, your diary talking back to you. Think the Art Ensemble Of Chicago backing Ian Curtis and Brigitte Fontaine. There’s a telepathic, sensitive interplay amongst the backing musicians.

Highlights are legion: The tortured creep and stagger of “Don’t Explain”, impossibly gorgeous when Stewart shhhhh’s into the mic accompanied only by crystal guitar strums and a metallic percussion heartbeat. “Wild Is The Wind” is almost TOO vaporous to believe, appropriately. Even when the saxes go on a rampage, they’re so far recessed into the background it’s like auditory muscle memory. The sass, strut and skronk of “See Line Woman”… I love the call and response with the horns and the skittery gallop of the drums. The lingering noir menace of “The Other Woman.”

And, finally, a deep respectful bow to Savannah, Georgia’s Graveface Records for being brave enough to release this and savvy enough to make it a handsome, worthwhile physical artifact.

Graveface Records: www.graveface.com

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Recently on Ink 19...

  • Summerland

    In rural England, a cranky woman bonds with and evacuee boy and uncovers a strange connection to her past.

  • Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations
    Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations

    These geniuses of early comedy finally get the presentation they are due in this Blu-ray edition.

  • Four-Letter Words
    Four-Letter Words

    No need to worry about offending delicate sensibilities with this playlist. We’re not talking about profanity, so just take the title at face value.

  • A Genesis In My Bed
    A Genesis In My Bed

    Former Genesis guitarist, Steve Hackett shares his life story in his story in an engaging and honest memoir. Reading his story feels like hanging out with a friend who’s interested in sharing how he felt living these experiences.

  • The Jayhawks
    The Jayhawks

    XOXO (Sham/Thirty Tigers). Review by Jeremy Glazier.

  • 18 to Party
    18 to Party

    When you’re in 8th grade, sneaking into a bar is way cooler than it is when you’re 40.

  • Adam

    A pregnant woman finds a home in Casablanca.

  • 2020 on Fire
    2020 on Fire

    Sound Salvation takes on current events with a playlist addressing the current fight for racial and social justice in America and the battles playing out in the streets in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd.

  • Pokey Lafarge
    Pokey Lafarge

    Rock Bottom Rhapsody (New West Records). Review by Jeremy Glazier.

  • Landfall

    Cecilia Aldarondo takes a look at Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

From the Archives