Blue Water White Death Blue Water White Death

[Graveface; 2010]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: electro-acoustic, folk, ambient
Others: Xiu Xiu, Shearwater

Blue Water White Death is the collaborative partnership of Jamie Stewart (Xiu Xiu) and Jonathan Meiburg (Shearwater). Conceived and recorded in just the seven days from Christmas to New Year’s Eve, 2009, their eponymous debut is exactly the sort of document one might expect to emerge from a whirlwind creative collision between its two inimitable makers. Tender and deeply vile in equal measure, Blue Water White Death is less an exercise in traditional songcraft than it is a meticulously rendered space. Most of the songs here don’t develop by typical linear courses, instead lingering amidst the trappings of the album’s unusual sonic architecture — running their leathery hands along the walls of its vast, damp corridors and floating in its cold, deep pools.

The title of the album comes from a 1971 documentary that follows a group of divers who set out to capture great white sharks on film. That film was the initial point of departure for Meiburg and Stewart, and Blue Water White Death certainly evokes a uniquely brutal aquatic vision. The duo trade vocals evenly across the album’s eight tracks, and their respective musical interests and strengths prove to be extremely complementary. Stewart’s songs tend to get down amidst the waters, his crooked incantations swallowed up by waves of leaden drones (“Rendering the Juggalos”) or wading in the foam and slime of the shallows (“Death for Christmas”). Meiburg, on the other hand, tends toward the nautical. His gorgeous falsetto is dappled with sunlight and his dry, nimble fingerpicking skips like a schooner over ambient soundscapes whose shimmering surfaces imply leagues of dark, heaving depths below.

Blue Water White Death’s four gatefold panels feature illustrations of four different deep sea fish set against a clinical field of white. They’re grotesque creatures with near-alien deformities, their brutalized anatomies born of long legacies spent in the cold and darkness of deep oceans. They’re also strikingly beautiful and the perfect avatars for the album’s tenuous mixture of majesty and hideousness, innocence and shame.

Links: Blue Water White Death - Graveface

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