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Xiu Xiu: Angel Guts: Red Classroom
Angel Guts: Red Classroom marks the ninth studio album of American, avant-garde and artsy rock band, Xiu Xiu, and the group's sixth since parting ways with long-time producer and ex-member, Cory McCulloch.
Based on founder and vocalist Jamie Stewart's experiences since moving from his home state of North Carolina to a slum in Los Angeles, Angel Guts: Red Classroom is dripping with what music review site 'Tiny Mix Tapes' described as, "the sound of Xiu Xiu's death".
Named after an erotic Japanese film of the same name, Angel Guts: Red Classroom is a portrayal of graphic subject matter laced with the typical, Xiu Xiu-styled self-loathing. Mixed using only three instruments – drum machines, analogue synthesizers, and a drum set – the album takes a more minimalistic approach than the band's previous releases. This bare style adds to the suffocating sense of despair encroached into every track.
Opening track, 'Angel Guts', is a three minute long, digital stream of distorted white noise and faint waves of gothic-esque chimes and gongs. While not entirely impressive, the appeal of Xiu Xiu has always been their ability to awake dormant emotions from listeners with electronic sounds along with the muffled wails of front-man, Justin Stewart. Completely erratic at times, Stewart's vocals range from quiet whispers to adolescent cries of angst.
The lyrics are kept abstract and completely vague in meaning, leaving the listener to create personal interpretations to accompany the haunting, yet ethereal, music. With 14 tracks with an average length of two minutes, the instruments and sounds are incredibly repetitive with only slight variations of tempo breaking up the monotony.
Although the majority of the tracks follow this formula, songs such as, 'Adult Friends' and 'Stupid in the Dark' are some of the most fascinating tracks that Xiu Xiu has produced to date. Completely original in idea and execution, even the vocals manage to carry a certain weight behind every word sung.
While Xiu Xiu remains to continue being too inaccessible for most mainstream-oriented listeners, Angel Guts: Red Classroom is one album that should be listened to if only for the sake of an unforgettable, gruelling experience.
Michael Jackson was cruelly taken from this world in 2009, his musical-afterlife
is proving to be very fruitful. In addition to bringing in good money for producers and collaborators, it’s a staunch reminder of the
king of pop’s much loved spirit. That was achieved in Michael, the
first album release after his passing away, but not many would say the same
about new album Immortal.
For one thing, Immortal was originally created as a soundtrack for the Cirque du Soleil tour of the same name, and while Michael featured new songs, this one is made up mainly of remixes of some of his most popular songs which, without the accompanying Cirque du Soleil acts, may sound like a meaningless spoil of some of the greatest pop classics of all time.
Among the songs on the giant twenty-track album, some of the titles grab the attention right away and raise intrigue; how would a ‘Thriller’ remix turn out, for example? And who dares mess with ‘Smooth Criminal’? The latter had a couple of dramatic pauses and smashing sound effects between verses without breaking the original mood of the song.
The same can’t be said of the ‘Speechless/Human Nature’ remix. While it’s hard to notice where the two songs blend, the only change is the absence of ‘Human Nature’s beat and replacing it with a strange clicking sound. Instrumentally speaking, ‘Man in The Mirror’ is the best remix on the record; the basic elements of the song stay the same, while a little shuffling of the chorus arrangements has actually given it a fresh sound that still keep it recognisable.
Immortal is rather confusing at first listen; if it aims to preserve Jackson's legacy, how come none of the new arrangements sound remotely like anything he would have done? Maybe it is a different experience when accompanied by the the Cirque du Soleil performance, but as an album, it lacks a running theme and it is too commercialized for its own good.
Ever since the 2012 release of their double a-side single, ‘Flying To Berlin/Husbands’, Savages have occupied an interesting space in the musical spectrums. With a mixture of old school post-punk and noise rock, they appear to be the perfect cross-section of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Swans. Their frenetic, dark, and sinisterly beautiful style has been receiving rave reviews the world over from critics and fans alike and their latest EP Adore Life is more of the same.
This is an album about love, but one would hesitate to call any of the tracks traditional love songs. Instead of falling into classic song writing tropes about how amazing love is, Savages instead approach the subject matter from a much darker perspective. This is an album about the true power of love, nd how that isn’t always a good thing.
The opening track, ‘The Answer’, heaves with energy from the get go, telling the story of an almost obsessive infatuation, with frontwoman Jehnny Beth (real name Camille Berthomier) repeating the words “If you don't love me/You don't love anybody” throughout the song just to drive home the fact that love can be a dangerous force. The hectic instrumentation provides a binary opposition to Beth’s sweet tones and is the perfect start to the record.
That is not to say that Adore Life is unrelenting in its aggression. This album is a mixture of forceful distortion, British post-punk and torch songs, and nowhere is this more apparent than on the song ‘Adore’. It’s slow, it’s bassy, it’s reverby (is that even a word?) it’s dark, but above all, beautiful. Concluding with a lyrical coda accompanied by a slow crescendo, it sounds like something you would hear in a smoky Paris café at 3AM. Make no mistakes, this is an early contender for one of the best songs of 2016.
Even towards the end of the album, they manage to keep the energy up. The penultimate track, ‘T.I.W.YG’, is almost a sequel to ‘The Answer’ in terms of style and narrative. The instrumentation provides an organised cacophony to truly drive home the fact that, this is what you get when you mess with love.
For what is only a second album, Adore Life shows a surprising maturity from the London-based female foursome. The lyrics are emotive without being contrived, the instrumentation is varied without being schizophrenic and the style is classic without being clichéd. This is more neo-post punk as opposed to post-punk revival and thank god it is, because the last thing we need is another attempt to revive a past genre. Remember the comment about the band being perfect cross-section of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Swans? This album hits the nail on the head, being equal parts a love song to the past and an ode to the fuzzy future.