Xiu Xiu

w/Devendra Banhart, Joy Electric

Mars Hill (1401 NW Leary Way), Fri June 27, 8 pm, $8, all ages.

For the past three weeks I've become obsessed with "Ian Curtis Wishlist," the quietly chilling finale to Xiu Xiu's latest full-length, A Promise. The song is an impossible listen--a sudden collapse in a shower of shrill bells, disappearing in a simple, melancholy refrain--all serving to elevate the cut-and-paste, overdriven sound of frontman Jamie Stewart's maniacal bawl. Stewart is infamous for such cartoonishly earnest outbursts on record, his music a gruesome, absurd collision of Asian percussion and electronic holocaust--think modern classical meets modern house music--magnified by Stewart's panicked visions of "having a specific impossible hope and at once knowingly feeling desperate and insane." But the cries in "Ian Curtis Wishlist"--a raving, drunken cackle transcending any semblance of musicality--also transcend anything they've composed to date. When he shouts (in his characteristic void of ambiguity), "Will you ever bleat out, 'Do you love me, Jamie Stewart?'" it's unsettling in the way that only sympathetic embarrassment can be. It's the sound of abject rejection, self-loathing, and familiar self-disgust, an audio record of the moment a man collapses beneath his own weight.

"In theory, the presence of a song like that is exactly what everything we do strives to be," says the warm, articulate Stewart, "and in a larger sense, what I think all art should strive to be. It's about a very real situation, and a very real feeling--and in order to do that very real thing justice, it's important that the art it inspires be really present in that moment... otherwise I'd just feel like an asshole."

The past few months since his move from Oakland to Seattle promise broad fuel for Stewart's tumultuous fire, what with recent extensive national tour plans cut short after the theft of the band's largely irreplaceable equipment. Somewhat directionless, Xiu Xiu has since moved from a band to a solo project, with Stewart going at it alone for his impending West Coast tour. "One of the most singular things that's really important about what I do is that it expresses sort of an acceptance of a given situation," Stewart reflects matter-of-factly, "and unfortunately, situations are generally pretty terrible."

zac@thestranger.com

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