Xiu Xiu had to go through La Forêt to arrive at The Air Force. Their last album was an unfocused mess of song cadavers, dissonant noise and relentless electronic scrapes. Here, Jamie Stewart and his crew of arty innovators use the penchant for sonic deconstruction they honed last time round to take their project of disemboweling pop songs to a new plane. Stewart's anxious, urgent moan snakes around desiccated webs of rattling percussion, sudden squalls of dark-heart Joy Division synths, tinned harpsichord and even occasionally the delicate fingerpicked folk guitar he used to such good effect on A Promise's Fast Car cover. The trick here is the way Xiu Xiu wallop you with the unexpected - Boy Soprano hisses and wheezes with inorganic feedback before cracking open into a choral explosion; the gorgeous, slow double bass roll of Wig Master sits at odds with the robotic vocoder chatter suspended over top. Even Hello From Eau Claire, the closest Xiu Xiu's ever come to a straightforward pop song, reveals layers of complex readings buried in Caralee McElroy's hesitant vocals.
Xiu Xiu captivate the El Mocambo crowd Friday (October 20).