Blue Water White Death is the brainchild of two of today’s most unique songwriters – Jamie Stewart of the eclectic, risk-taking pop group Xiu Xiu, and Jonathan Meiburg, golden-throated front man of Austin art-rock quintet, Shearwater. For their first collaboration Stewart and Meiburg, longtime fans of each other’s music, adopted the name of a 1971 documentary that follows a team of increasingly reckless explorers on a shark-finding quest to Australia’s aptly-named Dangerous Reef. As Blue Water White Death, the two conjure music that is dually ominous and serene, like the underwater world of the ocean, which is fitting considering the band’s namesake plunges boldly into new sonic territories.
On first listen Blue Water White Death may sound like a pair of reclusive eccentrics making music in a derelict mansion, perilously balancing beauty and horror with the absurd. Soon, it becomes apparent that there are three distinct modes at play – clean, even tones and the nonchalant picking of acoustic guitars that recall life on the open sea, notes and words paced like breaststrokes on the journey to the depths and finally, jarring mysterious noises meshed with vocals that echo the isolated, garbled quantities of the inside of a diver’s mask.
Despite Blue Water White Death’s complex, cohesive feel, Meiburg and Stewart came to its recording sessions empty handed, writing and recording the entire album in a week’s time. The production, handled by John Congleton (St. Vincent, Modest Mouse, The Roots, Black Mountain) is pristine and crisp, keeping the album accessible even in its darkest moments.