Blue Water White Death

Blue Water White Death

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AllMusic Review by

Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart and Shearwater’s Jonathan Meiburg have spent plenty of time peering and probing into the disturbing sides of nature and humanity in their main projects, so it makes sense that they’d be like-minded collaborators. They named themselves Blue Water White Death after a 1971 documentary about shark hunters in Australia’s Dangerous Reef, and while their self-titled debut isn’t as perilous as its namesake, it packs a formidable amount of dread into 33 minutes. The echoing drones and fleeting minor-key melodies that surround the pair’s vocals telegraph an uneasy openness that suggests waiting for the other shoe to drop (or shark to appear, as the case may be). It seeps into every track, even -- perhaps especially -- the ones with cutesy names like “This Is the Scrunchyface of My Dreams” and “Nerd Future,” which borrows from gamelan and chamber music to equally harrowing and lovely effect. Meiburg and Stewart wrote and recorded these songs with John Congleton, a collaborator from another like-minded group, the Paper Chase, within the span of a week. While Blue Water White Death doesn’t exactly feel rushed, its abstraction can sometimes seem unfinished on the first few listens; “The End of Sex” interrupts its mellow folk with jarringly asymmetrical noises. Stewart contributes a few songs like “Death for Christmas” that recall Xiu Xiu at their most willful (and vulnerable), but for every moment like this, Blue Water White Death presents a song that delivers drama and even some immediacy, like the bracing standout “Song for the Greater Jihad” and the avant-garde piano ballad “Gall.” Eerie and subtle, this set of songs will likely appeal only to Stewart and Meiburg fans who are dedicated enough to follow them to their most experimental limits, but the sustained atmosphere they create with Blue Water White Death won’t disappoint those listeners.

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