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.