XXL: Xiu Xiu and Larsen, the Italian experimental band, unite again for a fourth album. Puff O'Gigio, a mythological yet genetically modified being, gives its name to an album filled with its own dystopic fantasy.
Glistening flashes of distortion lead the way from Puff O'Gigio's Intro to Ghost Maid; there is a strange taste to Joy Division to this one, from an electric perspective, of course; its raw guitar takes the lead as it flutters sweetly up and about. A narrator steps in, the song feels more like a memory all of a sudden; 'you are so weightless'... An interlude breaks the pace to leave us suspended, oscillating clockwise. Carissimo effervesces right after, shedding some sort of automated desolation: an isolated kind of productivity; an unnecessary sort of efficiency that goes on and on. The flow of time grows more and more palpable as the album progresses. To Carol Rama awakes slowly. Narration bursts in again, intermittently. A dash of conscience that commands translucid memories to come to life; they obey with a violent yet opaque glow, and they eerily chase each other, trapped in a loop; a sense of quest starts rooting in this unsettling environment. Polar Bear Boogie pt. 1 and 2 defines the space surrounding us; the ceiling and the walls that close up around us breathe slowly, their pulse glows steadily; to this point, XXL has built up to an entrancing state of tension; distortion sneaks in delightfully here and there, reminding me a bit of Nine Inch Nail's Year Zero. One of the highlights of the album starts to assemble itself erratically: Welcome To My Planet appears to be dormant, but it will turn out to be a song of confrontation; it's beat runs deep, a jolly narrator merges with this uneasy beat, and the narration is lost in translation now as a rush drags us discretely in between the voices with the unruffled march of the piano that is soon lost, along everything else, to the darkness. Lemoning is a refreshing destination, with a crystalline elegance, it unfurls vigilant of its icy surroundings. This dystopic sound they've developed drifts from one perspective to another; when we reach this place, a comfortable awareness takes hold as we go on a ride so bone-chilling it burns. Queen of Koalas, another highlight, rattles the frost off and goes deeper into the core of this space, this organism we've gotten to know throughout the album: its vivid projections; the mechanisms; the memories; every single beat starts coming off from this metallic organism as it slowly breaks down, condemning itself to sleep.
-Tell us about Puff O'Gigio, your main character, who is he? How did he come to life?
All the XXL mythology, just like our music, is born out of the real-time interaction between us, and often surreal and absurd sense of humor. Puff O'Gigio is a hybrid, genderless creature, a cross between the notorious Belgian 2-apple sized blue creatures and the equally popular Italian talking and dancing mice, it is our own intersectional knight.
-How was the collaborative process behind this album?
XXL has not a specific agenda, we get together when we can and want; the band can be dormant for a long period and then we burst out into hectic activity over a short time period when we put together our ideas and sounds; it is not so much improvising, but real-time composing and arranging and recording, layer by layer.
-Was the sound of your album inspired by dreams? On Ghosts?
Quite the opposite, we are a pragmatic band, all the concepts and ideas we build our music on are a direct outcome of our conversations and experiences, both about personal and political issues, food, art... Soundwise we usually work toward specific directions, like an ambient piece or something with rhythm or "noise" and we take it from there. If your question was referring to the track "Ghost Maid", that piece is actually about a real maid, kind of...
-How was your approach to texture for this album?
The basic structure comes from jamming, a second process (editing) can confirm or destroy the previous structure, then we add other instruments or different layers of the existing ones until we feel the track is done.
-How would you describe your creative process?
Jokes that become serious, that become drama, that become jokes again.
-There is a powerful sense of loneliness and abandonment through Puff O'Gigio, I would compare it to fragmented memories and abandoned places that repeat themselves, was this on purpose?
We are nice people with some skeletons, along with glamorous clothes, in our closets.
We are also quite fond of melancholia and repetition in music.
We are not really r'n'r types.
-What's the story behind Queen of Koalas?
She's our pagan goddess, a manifestation of the feminine spirit, our bride of Frankenstein.
It's also the follow up to "king of Koalas" off our second album " ?Spicchiology?"
-Would you tell us more about Welcome To My Planet, and about the role science fiction had on the making of this album?
We love science and science fiction, but "our planet" has more to do with our inland empire/s than the cosmos. It's also an invitation to share, to counterbalance and antagonize the current obsession for borders and walls and exploitation of white men's ridiculous fears.
-How do you relate to tension? How does this element add to the narrative of the music you're making?
I think most of our music rides on the edge between conflicting elements, it's a very interesting concept to us.
-What awaits you after releasing Puff O'Gigio?
We were supposed to embark on a European tour, which unluckily had to be canceled due to evil forces conspiring against it; we couldn't be any more frustrated about not having the opportunity to take Puff O'Gigio live anymore, at least in the immediate future. The video for "Ghost Maid" where we jump really high, and which we filmed during the album recording sessions, will be released soon. Both Larsen and Xiu Xiu have new upcoming releases, shows, projects on their way.