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  • XXL, the long-running collaborative project between Xiu Xiu frontman Jamie Stewart and Italian experimentalists Larsen, return with their third full-length album, Dude, assembled in a "real time" recording process falling somewhere between improvisation, collage editing, and musique concrŠte-informed free association. The mostly instrumental album finds these strange bedfellows building their compositions from the ground up, often stumbling through electronic, post-rock, and neo-folk passages in a single song. Beginning with "Film Me in the Laundry #1," the first of a three-part suite, the album's tone is deceptively set for sprawling and moody post-rock exploration. The song builds with clouds of keyboards and haunted bell tones before breaking into a theatrical storm of uplifting drums not unlike the more triumphant moments of Explosions in the Sky or Mogwai. Moments later, "Disco Chrome" nullifies all that, meshing dance basslines with aggressive distorted leads, all playing an anxiously eerie melody not unlike John Carpenter's synthy horror movie soundtracks. Amid this chaos is even more chaos, with completely random opera vocal samples and the occasional hint of dub echo. The main element at work on this chapter of XXL's sound is randomness. Larsen's previous work with the doomy avant-garde institution Nurse with Wound seems to guide some of the underlying vibe on Dude, with occasional avant-industrial touches coming through the always scattered mixes. The album's closing track, "Vaire," is a more reined-in affair, and the only song on the album to feature Stewart's familiarly anguished vocals, coming in just for a moment before being buried in a fog of delay. ~ Fred Thomas
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