Interesting fact for all you non-sound engineers out there. There is a frequency – about 4k – that is utterly horrific to the ears if intensified. It’s an evolutionary device, a babies scream is in that range. The noise is unbearable, therefore you take care of your child; that, scientifically, is why babies are annoying.

Nina was mixed by Chris Koltay, and he clearly doesn’t know this. The sound of Jamie Stewart is just excruciatingly close throughout. Not in the claustrophobic way you actually want from Xiu Xiu, but in the way Massona might do it, just to fuck with you. It genuinely renders the album unlistenable.

It should be said that Xiu Xiu are one of the world’s most fascinating bands. That they have even released a stopgap album of free jazz Nina Simone covers blatantly shows it. Never afraid to try something and potentially fail. They constantly – and prolifically – keep you interested.

Free jazz is of course, an acquired taste. Considering Xiu Xiu’s fascination for chaotic gamelan and cacophony, you’d expect it to meld seamlessly with their aesthetic. There is a fine line between challenging and exasperating and Nina is a step to far. The songs bear no relation to their originals – that’s absolutely fine – but they bear no relation to the listener either.

New song Stupid In The Dark is superb and on the more familiar electronic side. Up-coming album Angel Guts: Red Classroom will undoubtedly be one of the best of 2014.

No one wants Xiu XIu to become stale, but no one will want to listen to Nina more than one either.


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