Politics and Prose is a well-established caffeine and literary landmark in the Chevy Chase neighborhood of Northwest Washington. Every once in a while I step in to browse the books and sip the coffee. But I was surprised one brisk Friday afternoon to stumble upon a gathering of folks not typical to what you expect in the District. Well, at least in the atmospheric heights of upper Northwest; where the urban bustle and eccentricity of the rest of the city seems so painfully far away.
If you haven’t gone down to E Street Cinema in downtown Washington, D.C. you might want to displace your butt from that couch and replant it in one of their fine, reclining bucket-seats ASAP. Whether you’re taking your date out to an arm-clinching, smooch-fest like In Secret, or throwing plastic spoons at the screen during a drunken, midnight showing of The Room, this theater does it right. The crowd tends to be less of the mainstream herd of cattle you can typically find at a giant, corporate-type cinema. Most importantly there are far fewer children. But of course do be prepared to sit next to someone wearing flannel or trimming their moustache.
Xiu Xiu (the demon-baby of San Jose native Jamie Stewart) recently released their latest album Angel Guts: Red Classroom. It is a comically dark and suspenseful journey into a dank basement of Frankenstein-inspired electronic doom. The slow and simple midi rhythms drip lifelessly like water droplets and splatter into a puddle of cold, stagnant and a-tonal clambering. What Xiu Xiu does well is create a dark and enveloping mood that sounds like something very old and very cutting edge simultaneously. Their music does not follow specific and traditional song structures or have hooks or even distinguishable melodies, but rather generates an ominous vibe. They use repetition effectively and lure their victims/listeners into a cryptic trance. They then assault the unsuspecting listener with ludicrously offensive and vile lyrics that are worked in between the spaces of their electronic pings and drum kit smashes. The vocals give the otherwise soulless music a somewhat human element, so it is not accurate to describe Xiu Xiu as purely electronic. There are elements of traditional songwriting beneath the layers of synthesizer machinery. This album succeeds in being dark and creepy but is also sometimes hard to take seriously. I dig it for its dark, trance-like vibe. But I often grew tired of the over the top ghoul-like ranting.