I remember as a kid once sheepishly going to bed after the continuity announcer said the “following programme is not for the faint hearted”. It was a rather tepid production on ITV. However, the announcement scared the death out of me. In much the same way Xiu Xiu also scared the death out of me. However, this time I stayed up. In other words you have to be brave to experience the world according to Xiu Xiu and it’s creator Jamie Stewart. So here, at the start of a very short UK tour promoting their ninth studio album Angel Guts: Red Classroom, from the outset, expect the uncompromising.
The material descends into begrimed and muddy subjects. It is shocking, but it’s exciting in equal measure. Deep, muted drums and long synth chords, with the occasional squeal of dissonance, conflate around Jamie Stewart’s Scott Walker-esque lamentation. Stewart’s vocals, interred so deep they are sometimes inaudible over the music sing of fear, death, and carnage. His asphyxiating vocal holds a certain excitement, amplified since it is live which makes it somehow more threatening.
Of course the entirety of Angel Guts: Red Classroom is meant to be a difficult journey for the listener. It takes us into the dark heart of humanity’s obsession with sex and filth and comes out laughing like some psychopathic maniac. It’s dark and sweaty in the venue: which is apt because the material is dark and sweaty.
At some point you’ll come up for air. Clear space after having your ears obliterated by Stewart and Angela Seo’s nightmarish glimpse at the darker fringes of life on Earth. But still it will gnaw away at you, tempt you and repulse you, and you know what? You’ll eventually find yourself going back for more.