Puff O’Gigio

Bad Paintings

Dec 28, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

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From an external perspective, dreams usually don't make sense. And from an external perspective, the serene union of Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart and Angelo Seo in LA with Italian wizards Larsen seems like quite an illusion to conjure. Yet somehow, for their fourth album as XXL, the former's industrial night terrors fold gently into the latter's droning astral projections, so that the two fuse into a rather sleek and stealthy beast. Puff O'Gigio might lack the waking nightmare violence of a typical Xiu Xiu outing, but instead paints a more open-ended picture where koala bears could curse you, polar bears could offer silver apples, and the nearest refuge could be on alien territory.

In these oneiric landscapes, lyrics won't guide you much. But that's fine, as there's plenty to stimulate the curious explorer. Like on Flying Saucer Attack's instrumental album from 2015 (the fittingly titled Instrumentals), the sparse vistas of "Welcome to My Planet" and the two-part "Polar Bear Boogie" create shadow sketches that can unsettle and soothe the nerves in equal measure. Noisier limbos like "Carissimo" and "Lemoning" draw out more of Xiu Xiu's claws-but thanks to Larsen, the normal synth slasher menace spins slowly into a more kaleidoscopic scene, something more akin to This Heat than Einstürzende Neubauten. Even when Stewart fumes directly about dangling eyeballs in "To Carol Rama," there's a meditative lull that's almost creepier than Xiu Xiu's usual shock tactics.

Of course, as the best horror writers know, the greatest nightmares are the ones that no one can explain. And so, by the time we reach the burbling bazaar of "Queen of Koalas," we reach a frightening thoughtthe puff o'gigio that held us captive in slumber for nearly 40 minutes will soon vanish into the dark, before we ever get the chance to see the elusive critter's true form. (www.xiuxiu.org, www.larsen.to.it)

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