For those who think that Xiu Xiu’s Fabulous Muscles was a concerted step toward accessibility, Jamie Stewart’s collaboration with Italy’s moody electroheads Larsen is an even further progression. There’s little of the pins-and-needles build up that usually runs rampant on a Stewart release. Granted there’s a definite horror-theme sustain in the disheveled instrumentation of “Minne Mouseistic,” and behind the Italian spoken word provided by “il Bue” it’s a little like a haunted language lab cassette, but the overriding emotions are genuinely less melodramatic than expected. Chalk it up to both parties focusing more on creating a unified creepy, occasionally uplifting mood through music — only four of the disc’s nine tracks include vocals — rather than confrontational lyrics. Even when words pop up on the landscape, they’re quickly relegated to the background, behind a swelling expansive soundtrack worthy of a spaghetti western. Funny, then, that the most Xiu Xiu moment occurs on the cover of Adam & The Ants’ “Prince Charming,” a track already dripping with enough homoeroticism, turned all the more sinister with Stewart’s caterwaul.
With international, one-off projects like Ciautistico!, it’s difficult to discern what the impetus behind it was, how much time and effort was spent on the songwriting/recording process, etc. It’s pretty rare that the result is a coherent, worthwhile statement, but that’s exactly what Xiu Xiu and Larsen have created here.