Gig review: Xiu Xiu, OAF, 2/9/2010

Xiu Xiu

Angela Seo of Xiu Xiu. Image by Belinda Dipalo. All rights reserved by Belinda Dipalo

Sydney experimental pop duo Kyu set an ethereal tone as openers, beautifully harmonised vocals churned through microphone effects and percussion duets featuring heavily. The contrast between their intense performance and between songs partially whispered grinning thanks was a humorous respite from the barrage of swirling synths and overall genuinely stunning music.

Los Angeles-based, New York bred band High Places continued the evening’s pattern of electronic duos with a mesmerising performance mostly accredited to vocalist Mary Pearson’s siren-like voice. Sweet and often barely audible, Pearson’s languid delivery gave an air of sunny California laziness to the evening. Melding with video projections of rippling water and swamps, the bass-heavy set saw multi-instrumentalist Rob Barber switching between drum machine, guitar, and any number of folkish percussion instruments. Rhythmic and captivating, High Places left a calm in the audience as they departed.

Plenty has been said of Xiu Xiu frontman Jamie Stewart – his songs are autobiographical delving into the intimate and confronting thoughts of a depressed, self-loathing man. Those expecting a moping singer to deliver such emotionally draining music were definitely proven wrong as Stewart and his current bandmate, Angela Seo, proceeded to drown the venue with noise. Whether it was the screeching of guitars being fed through pedal effects or the synchronised clanging of multiple cymbals, the songs took on a life so much stronger than that which is heard on record. Dear God I Hate Myself lost the wavering resonance it holds upon first listen but with the help of multiple synthesisers became a climatically reassuring song for the masses. The Nintendo DS on which Stewart programmed most of the latest record appeared mid-set, innovatively worked into the songs. I Luv The Valley Oh! was perhaps the most anticipated song, delivered with the shouting passion it invokes in the viewer simultaenously.

Xiu Xiu’s music, and thus the flow of the show, is entirely based around rhythm and when the duo locked eyes and unified, it was an incredibly tight performance. There were stumbles along the way, Fabulous Muscles was disappointingly jagged and lost in its own sound, yet the new Chocolate Makes You Happy saw Stewart mumbling but more powerful in incoherence. Sad Pony Guerilla Girl allowed for a brief moment of reverb free purity, the focus solely on Stewart’s sweat soaked face as he seemed to push the words out of his whole being. Barely a word spoken to his audience, one quick child-like goodbye wave and the duo were off stage. No BS, no encore.

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