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coverpic flag US - California - Full Moon 122 - 09/07/06

Xiu Xiu
The Air Force
5 Rue Christine

With brief intensity, these west coast brainiacs named Xiu Xiu strike every pivotal sensation with their digi-goth pop novelette, The Air Force. Avant-garde think tank Jamie Stewart kicks off a freakish tour-de-force on "Buzz Saw" by humming a heartache that echoes last year's I Am a Bird Now by Antony and the Johnsons. For their next trick, they dive into an gruesome, brutal, distorted, orchestral arrangement on "Boy Soprano". It establishes intention with the best of contrasts: a subtle kicker followed by the power to swell and overwhelm.

Coming from a most dynamic of duos, The Air Force moves quickly with as much ambient foresight as Sigur Rós and Björk did on their first appearances. Yet impressively, this is their sixth album since their debut in 2002.

It's obvious from "St. Pedro Glue Stick" and most of Stewart's other monologues that he's a fist class student of Captain Beefheart. But where Don Von Vliet would spew his psycho-humor, Stewart carefully places his dementia and deprivation. He orchestrates various characters that are at a loss to their masculinity and innocence, hiding behind maelstroms of barely audible eastern scales set to western Pro Tools magic.

Like Eno and Björk before them, each melody flows inside the madness just as quietly as the personalities. Audio Landscapes are impressive and necessary but The Air Force is not a mere laser show for the ears. Each digital wall of sound with distinct intricate pop pieces and are treated as such-no different than how Brian Wilson saw his wall of saxophones and tympanis in '66, or Quincy Jones saw his wall of synthesizers and drum machines on Michael Jackson's Thriller.

There is no length that would make The Air Force any literal comparison to 60s, 80s, or even 00s pop-it's too far ahead of us. Xiu Xiu has developed a wonderful futurism that, even if we arrive at the proper decade for them to be listened to more comfortably, this album may still feel absolutely deranged. Suggest surgically removing the oriental mysticism and you still have an album that feels half a world away.

Just as rapid as it arrived and began its assault, The Air Force departs with no grand finale. It doesn't need one.

Read Tim Clarke's review of Xiu Xiu live at the Northcote Social Club, Melborne Australia, April 21st 2006.

Copyright © 2006 Matthew DeMello e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Xiu Xiu article/review: Women As Lovers.

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