XXL - Düde
XXL is an acronym for this project's two collaborators: America's Xiu Xiu and Italy's Larsen. This is the group's third LP; their third attempt at properly synthesising the electro depression of XX with the drone-sculpting of L. Lately they've been spending a lot more time together - on tour, playing this music away from the studio - so you wonder whether Düde might be their most cohesive work to date.
As the first track, 'Film Me In The Laundry #1', slithers ominously out of the shadows, these hopes seem entirely justified. XXL conjure up layer after layer of interesting noises as the music builds beautifully.
Track two is completely different. It's a three-minute freak waltz through a haunted circus. It concludes with a haunting, operatic falsetto, apparently recorded via a phone call from London. The change is jarring, despite the fact that both songs use the same clanging percussion and swamp-like washes of synth. It's about then that you realise that this album's going to be as eclectic as the last. Despite the time they spent on tour, XXL composed and recorded this new set of songs in only ten days.
This improvisational approach takes them in all sorts of odd directions. 'Apsorbtion's crystalline synths are interupted by a swarm of discordant trumpets. 'Krampus' is a nine-minute ode to the eponymous Alp-dwelling, mythical monster - in Korean. The vocals come courtesy of the recent Xiu Xiu addition and first-time XXL participant, Angela Seo.
Every song, though, is as fascinating as it is unexpected. Each one requires a readjustment in expectations, but it's worth it for the brand new world it places you in. The music, one way or another, retains both the smooth, swelling nature of Larsen, and the inherent, unmistakeable creepiness of Xiu Xiu.
'Oi! Düde' is the only time they take things too far. It's eighteen-and-a-half minutes long, and not much happens until the beat comes in after eight. Even then there's nothing else to latch on to; sounds happen meaninglessly and without rhythm. The result is a chore to listen to. It's the only time XXL fail to exercise control over their soundscapes; it's just a shame that the song's vast length ends up dominating the record. It makes Düde impossible to listen to as a cohesive whole, and forces you to dip in and out. Still, if you cherry pick the right parts, you'll find some unique, fascinating pieces of music.