XXL: Ciautistico !
The holy union of Italian arch-experimentalists Larsen and James Stewart's
mutated-pop project Xiu Xiu, XXL's debut album is being touted as a genuine
"joint creative clash" and actual factual band, as opposed to
a brief flirtation or sporadic collaborative venture. For those who are
familiar with Stewart's recent Acuarela album, whose bruisingly intimate
portraits led some to speculate it was a scathing satire on the self-help
atrocities of singer-songwriters (it wasn't), 'Ciaustistico' could come
as something of a shock. Carved from a mass of tape churned out during
Beowulf-style improv sessions, the album opens with the annoyingly titled
'Paw Paw Paw Paw Paw Paw Paw'; wherein Stewart's Cohen/Morrissey-laminated
vocals are framed by a miasma of dignified strings and broiling post-rock.
Following this spangled pop introduction, 'Ciautistico' then gets more
experimental through the frigid electronica and pertinacious strings of
'Minne Mouselstic', creating a sound that shares much with the minimalist
compositions of Susumu Yokota or even (possibly, kind of) Asa Chang and
Junray. Elsewhere, '(Pokey I'm Your) Gnocchi' is a Puccini splashed epic
so overblown it works perfectly, 'Prince Charming' is a histrionic and
intimidating cover of the Adam Ant hit, whilst 'Birthday Song' is a blast
of Isan style bubblytronica.