Xiu Xiu

Chapel of the Chimes

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It begins with a too-steady heartbeat pulse. Someone strums piano innards as a voice near tears condenses everything wrong in its existence -- not bothering with outside existences -- into a handful of exsanguinated couplets. A tag team drops the piano's sustain pedal, bangs over keys twined with tuned percussives. "Jennifer Lopez (The Sweet Science Version)" begins with sawed bass nearly run down by frenzied drums before electronics from horror movies and early-'70s Moog albums, screams, chants, and rhythmic breathing clatter in. Sticks click out beats. Sticks abandoned, the Lusitania is dragged across the ocean floor with its steam whistle still hooting. A cover of Joy Division's "Ceremony" points to Xiu Xiu's influences, but their noise-joyous festooning of that band's honed arrangements don't give away their methods with original material. Xiu Xiu plays with sound and suspense as adroitly and with as much humor as early Butthole Surfers, except for singer Jamie Stewart, who appears as deeply devoted to misery as any industrial Goth-head, and as despairing of finding new timbres to give it life. As a dead cherry atop a sonic banana split, he finds his fit in the flavor scheme.

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