Angel Guts: Red Classroom
★★★ ★(out of 5 stars)
As if anticipating the patience test of 2013’s Nina, a raw exercise that stretched listenability even by their own shocking standards, Xiu Xiu returns a mere three months later to reintroduce some welcome structure into their trembling, nauseous ether. Rigid electronic rhythms and noisy analog synths give anchor and caustic bite to the band’s signature horror-pop here, with killers like the driving electro vertigo of “Stupid in the Dark,” the unmerciful jackhammer of “Cinthya’s Unisex” and particularly the ominous, subterranean slither of “Black Dick.” The recalibrated result is an effective, dynamic tension that’s concrete, balanced and graspable. And it allows Xiu Xiu’s cutting power to excite again, instead of simply thwart.