Saturday, May 18, 9 p.m.
Rozz-Tox, 2108 Third Avenue, Rock Island IL
Lauded by PopMatters for “the band's playfulness with both sound design and the use of sound effects,” the Los Angeles-based experimental rockers of Xiu Xiu headline a May 18 Rozz-Tox concert in support of their 2019 release Girl with Basket of Fruit, the band's 14th studio album and a recording that Spill magazine called “a Finnegan's Wake of sound which deserves to be placed on a level with some of the famous works of art that it samples and references.”
Experimental artist Jamie Stewart, a veteran of the bands Former Ghosts and Sal Mineo, formed Xiu Xiu in 2002 in San Jose, California, after the disbanding of his previous outfit Ten in the Swear Jar. Stewart and Cory McCulloch continued from the previous group and were initially joined by Yvonne Chen and Lauren Andrews, with their new band's sound characterized by its use of indigenous instruments and programmed drums in place of traditional rock instruments: harmonium, mandolin, brass bells, gongs, keyboards, and a cross between a guitarrón mexicano and a cello. Xiu Xiu toured its first LP Knife Play and its EP successor Chapel of the Chimes in 2002, blending both melody and cacophony with a heavy reliance on percussive and bass instrumentation. Vocalist Stewart, meanwhile, earned comparisons to The Cure's Robert Smith, while the band itself drew inspiration from post-punk, synth pop, and avant-garde music as well as directors and authors including Todd Solondz, V..S. Naipaul, Yukio Mishima, and David Lynch.
That latter figure became a direct inspiration when Australia's Gallery of Modern Art commissioned Xiu Xiu to rework the Grammy-winning score to Lynch's iconic TV series Twin Peaks, a project that culminated in 2016's Plays the Music of Twin Peaks. But the musicians of Xiu Xiu, by then, had already established themselves as singular talents through albums such as The Air Force, Women as Lovers, and Dear God, I Hate Myself, with 2013's Angel Guts: Red Classroom receiving eight out of 10 stars in Drowned and Sound & Mojo and War on Drugs' David Hartley praising the album as a “stereoscopic assault.” Released on February 8, Girl with Basket of Fruit, supported by its lead single “Scisssssssors,” has been among Xiu Xiu's most acclaimed, unsettling, and musically distinct releases to date, with Spill awarding it four of five stars and calling it “loaded with haunting monologues, rhythms borrowed from world music, odd time signatures, and legitimate feelings of absolute dread.”
Xiu Xiu plays Rozz-Tox on May 18 with additional sets by ONO and White Batzzz, admission to the 9 p.m. show is $12-15, and more information is available by calling (309)200-0978 or visiting RozzTox.com.