Just when people started to figure out how to unravel Xiu Xiu's brand of puzzling, theatrical art-rock, two of the group's provisional sidemen -- Sam Mickens and Jherek Bischoff -- have spun off into the equally confounding outfit the Dead Science. The Seattle trio's new EP, Bird Bones in the Bughouse, flutters with upright bass, acoustic guitar, trumpet, piano and the spine-chilling pluck of pizzicato violin. Mickens's slinky whispers and filmy falsetto ride on gusts of tenderly coaxed art rock with an ear bent toward Nico, Nick Cave and Talk Talk, not to mention Xiu Xiu's own jazzy, double-jointed peculiarity. Throw in a smoke-shrouded rendition of Terence Trent D'Arby's soulfully sinful "Sign Your Name," and you've got the blueprint for a twisted yet entrancing set of sultry, ethereal beauty.
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