There is a creative juxtaposition going on here with XXL; that being, of the two group’s own separate identities/mythologies, XXL forms an interesting mythology of its own. One is Jamie Stewart’s very strong “open book” sort of personality; unafraid of being without hiding under false stories while presenting songs of intensely personal events and emotions. The other is a group of people who work under more mysterious extensions, their mythology aided by themselves and the American counterparts with whom they work. It’s a mode of forward-being versus abstraction that makes XXL an intriguing entity.
However, I’m not sure if it’s one that necessarily pertains to any sort of understanding into Düde, in terms of what the album is or the general understanding of musical “collaborations.” One consideration would be that navigating either Xiu Xiu or Larsen’s path of self-presentation would help to understand which of the two collective personalities had come out stronger, song for song. However, this becomes a distraction in and of itself, as one might listen to Düde waiting for the moment to hear the distinct sound of Jamie Stewart’s vocals. With this listening approach, you (philosophical “you”) would have to wait until the final track “Vaire” to hear this distinction, causing you to miss out on the wonderfully atmospheric track “Krampus,” the urgently forward “Disco Chrome,” or the intensely “head-in-the-noise-until-the-Kraut-groove” song “Oi! Düde!” Listening inversely would cause the same sort of distraction, as in “where is Larsen in all of this?”
So being, it’s best not to listen in expectation, but rather in speculation. There are moments where you can hear one group giving to the other, as would be how compromise works and collaboration should be. It doesn’t give the notion of “Xiu Xiu with some random Italians,” one group floating on top of the other. Even in the Larsen/Little Annie collaborations is this thing present: one entity does their thing, and the other does theirs, all at the same time. This isn’t to say that Larsen’s work with Little Annie is bad (it’s not; it’s pretty damn great), but XXL is a different sort of thing from the modern notion of the collaboration.
Herein lies another set of questions: is the collaboration as interesting and important to the listener at it is to the creator? Is this document done more for the involved parties’ own sense of creative development? Will that translate to the outside listener? In the case of Düde, I would say yes — not only under my own personal notions of the need for documentation, but also that Düde is a great listen: dark at times, light at times, both urgent and relaxed, the album shows the collaborative effort at its most varied, three albums in. XXL establish a series of their own signals and noise through which the listener navigates, in turn establishing the link through which we direct group identities and mythologies as both things we know and things we (try to) ignore. The brain puts it away, but like true disposal, there is no actual “away.” Take for example the explanation of the title, “Düde (to be pronounced Duede) sports an umlaut on its ‘u’ as a tribute to our druidic ancestors. Düde is about the umlaut… it is all about the umlaut…” Mythological noise, for sure. However, in my listening, I couldn’t help but bring up the notion of thinking that any of the tracks had something to do with either Druids or the notion of ancestry. Fall down that rabbit hole and emerge realizing that you’ve missed something of about 10 minutes or so, either because of a change in dynamics or by giving up under frustration of finding nothing.
It’s that final track “Vaire” that breaks the sort of tug and pull between Xiu Xiu and Larsen; as previously dictated, it is the only track to feature Jamie Stewart’s voice, but it doesn’t occur until halfway through the song, taking up only a very small part of the sonic space. Taken out of context, the delivery and lyrical content lack the beautiful brutality of this year’s Xiu Xiu release. This might give it the sense of being weak for Xiu Xiu in total retrospect; however, its contextual space on the album would give no better ending. Take the song away, and I can’t imagine ending this album with “Film Me In The Laundry #3,” the final segment of a broken whole piece, which follows the above described “Oi! Düde!” “Vaire’s” beautiful repetitive drone wains in the essence of the album’s give and take, feels like the proper ending of the conversation between Xiu Xiu and Larsen.