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Named after a seventies documentary/movie about shark hunting, this collaboration between Jonathon Maier from Shearwater and Jamie Stewart from Xiu Xiu was never going to be a straight forward and instantly accessible affair.
I am a novice to Xiu Xiu but their reputation for the experimental precedes them and so this, combined with the golden voiced Jonathon from Shearwater was an enticing promise, and frankly I am a sucker for all things Shearwater – the Golden Archipelago being high up my list of albums of the year.
Playing back the download version of this set thanks to GraveFace (although I am now the proud owner of number 25 of the 100 numbered physical copy) quickly demonstrated that this is an album that really needs a few good plays before it gives up its qualities. But there is much to admire here even though for some people the distinctly non-traditional song form of many tracks may require an open-mindedness not often demanded of them these days.
There is a hint of Blemish era David Sylvian-ness about some of the less orthodox sounds but Jonathon’s vocals keep it the right side of the ‘art-music’ for the most part. There is a fragility about the sound-scape and an air of threat and anxiety somehow.
Tracks like Song for New Jihad are among the more immediate, a little more orthodox in its structure. Jonathon’s vocals are very ‘close’, unadorned and untreated providing an intimacy to many tracks, as on Death for Christmas. Gall (yes, the track titles are a little ‘dark’ shall we say) is a little closer to more expected Shearwater territory but embroidered with extra sonic ‘bells and whistles’
The closing track of the brief 32 minute collection, Rendering the Juggalos feels like one of the more successful of the collaboration, more balanced and integrated, perhaps more considered.
BWWD won’t gain much air time, but then again it probably isn’t in search of much, and nor will you catch yourself unexpectedly humming a melody line as you wander the streets. But in these days of contrived and formulaic music, made for a cynical buck, it is no bad thing to have to sit up and take notice, make an effort and get under the skin of music.
Pitchfork didn’t get this album too much (and not all of it works for me either) but to some this is endorsement enough! A closed mind is a terrible thing