Xiu Xiu makes a very, very welcome return this week with the release of a ninth studio album entitled Always, coming out though Bella Union. This release marks a birthday in some respects. Ten years ago, in 2002, Knife Play - the first full-length record to appear from the hands of Xiu Xiu - was unleashed upon the world, an album which would prove to be but the foundations of a very interesting musical journey. Ten years and a substantial amount of records later, and Xiu Xiu return on top form, as charged and intoxicating as ever, to release their latest, and very possibly greatest collection of work to date.
‘Powerful’, ‘uncompromising’ and ‘provocative’ are words often used in the same breath as the name Xiu Xiu, and this latest album is a solid demonstration of the reasons why. Just as he did on the previous album 2010′s Dear God, I Hate Myself, Jamie Stewart, the main man behind the Xiu Xiu operation, has combined fiercely frank lyrical content with an indubitably imaginative mix of tempos, textures and timbres. Production duties were entrusted to Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier for this record, who has provided a pristine edge to the harmonious blend of bracing electronic backdrops and symphonic hooks and shifts. And as always (no pun intended), the whole construction is held seamlessly together by the vocals of Stewart, who manages to shift his tone from achingly poignant to ferociously striking to poetically playful in the space of just a few utterances.
And to read about a special trip that inspired Jamie during the creation of this record, have a read of his Reference Points here.