Xiu Xiu – ‘Nina’ LP [Graveface Records]

Bit of an odd release this, and utterly fascinating. Jamie Stewart’s four-piece band Xiu Xiu have produced countless flashes of brilliance since Knife Play in 2002, but none as overly enjoyable as this full-length tribute to Nina Simone.

The Nina Simone songbook is, for the best part, reduced to Tom Waits style funeral marches, home recordings accompanied by what sounds like a squeezebox and a variety of other instruments you might find in a Swiss grandpa’s attic. Stewart’s voice takes on a totally different meaning; the personality of the record IS that it’s distinctively bleak but heartfelt.

There’s a few exceptions to this vibe – “See Line Woman” the most notable – which receive a raucous, house party makeover, breaking up the album nicely and coming across like The Coral or The Zutons doing a drunken live jam.

Evidently this album was recorded in one day, and f**k knows if the end result is what Xiu Xiu set out to do, but personally I think it’s genius. Most importantly, it comes across very genuine sounding, and filled with respect and love for The High Priestess Of Soul. I really dug every second of this album.

Available in CD, LP, Cassette or digital – but strangely not really been picked up for distribution outside of the Graveface store in Georgia.Check the press release below and a couple of clips underneath that, your best bet may be Discogs for decent postage on physical: http://www.discogs.com/Xiu-Xiu-Nina/master/622415

via Graveface Records
The first Xiu Xiu full length on Graveface is an 11 song Nina Simone covers album featuring some incredible musicians: Ches Smith, Tim Berne, Tony Malaby, Mary Halvorson, Andrea Parkins and Jamie Stewart of course. From Jamie: “The idea came being back stage in Austin TX, opening for Swans and feeling like I did not play well. Michael Gira and I had the night before talked about our mutual love for Nina Simone and how her intensity and crazy political truthfulness always pushed us to try harder. After watching the Swans that night and knowing the difficult ups and downs of their history and now their epic and beautiful persistence, they made me want to try harder as well. Nina Simone’s singing is way over my head and while I was back stage feeling like i blew it that night, hearing the swans be amazing and thinking of Nina made me want to not give up. The idea came from wanting to honor her, challenge myself to be better than I think I can be and to say thank you to music. Ches Smith is the only person i know who could understand this in his heart and also handle the technical side of fearlessly reorienting such wonderful music.”