LIVE REVIEW: Xiu Xiu @ Goodgod Small Club, Sydney (17/10/12)

by Chris Familton

With some mildly unnervingly field recordings serenading Goodgod’s spinning mirror balls Rites Wild took the floor and proceeded to weave some intoxicating, pulsing electronic kosmiche tracks that sounded like the soundtrack to a dystopian analog future. Her long and spacious tracks delivered immersive and engaging results with some wonderful synth lines dancing and droning over pseudo-industrial rhythms. Stacey Wilson’s vocals have a distant, droning quality that perfectly complement her compositions.

There was barely time to recalibrate one’s ears before Melbourne-based Absolute Boys upped instruments and delivered an excellent set of polymorphic, post-punk imbued pop music. This was my first introduction to the trio and they were quite the revelation with inventive bass playing that was both intelligent in its poise and delivery and primal in it’s sonic impact. Their drummer refused to follow convention, playing with one stick, no crash cymbals and using various other percussive instruments while the guitarist coaxed soft billowing textures and slashing shards of echoing noise almost simultaneously. Heavily indebted to PiL, dub, post rock and pop music of the type Wild Beasts trade in, Absolute Boys were captivating.

By the time Jamie Stewart (Xiu Xiu) took the stage the crowd had grown but was still no more than 100 people. They made up for their lack of numbers by crowding in close on all sides of the stage, creating a womb-like and welcoming performance space for Stewart and his percussive partner Angela Seo. Amid a sea of pedals, synths, slingshots, guitar and drums the duo played a set best described as avant-garde in its delivery. At the centre of Stewarts music lies a sense of catharsis and expunging of demons and obsessions. His ability to switch from twinkling, delicate musical passages to blood curdling intensity (I Luv Abortion) was impressive and dramatic and showed the necessity of balance in his music to avoid overkill of either extreme. Seo’s playing across a range of percussive instruments was essential and added many subtle layers to the duos sound. Though Xiu Xiu have shifted from a guitar-based approach to a more eclectic and detailed form it was still Stewart’s intensity that drove the music but also gave the show a sense of detachment. The world of Xiu Xiu is fascinating to observe but not one you would want to be part of.

An edited version of this review was published in Drum Media

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