Xiu Xiu Larsen | Live Review

By Serena Cherry

Photo credit: Clint Ganczak

Bristol-based monster prog band ANTA kick off the evenings wonky musical proceedings hard with their formidable wall of amplifiers. Whilst their ear-watering vintage stacks deliver a sound that remains consistently massive, the four piece also succeed in demonstrating that -beneath all their huge volume power- lies a carefully mapped, Magma-inspired approach towards progressive art rock; where loudness does not cost the band the subtlety of their well-rounded soundscapes.

Drawing another tasteful influence from the tumultuous work of Guapo, ANTA roll multitudes of odd time signatures fluidly into each other with such irresistible smoothness, that their mathematical riffs never feel calculated or awkward. It is this accomplished ability, coupled with their collective ear for a catchy, yet often haunting, melody which keeps the synergy of their 30 minute non-stop set burning hypnotically bright.

In direct contrast, Californian experimenters ‘Xiu Xiu’ -coupled with their Italian collaborators ‘Larsen’- treat their fun-sized audience to a jarring display of dissonance in a remarkably poorly executed set. Despite hosting a barrage of unusual instruments on stage – a Moog, a theremin, and a squeeze box to name a few- their music is as reluctant and unimaginative as their cold stage presence.
Four songs into their collective cacophony, and it becomes harder to tell which is more tedious – the vague un-sculpted noise they play, or the stony silence that lies in between, while band members frequently jump on and off the stage after songs, to allow Xiu Xiu front man Jamie Stewart a private moment to play with a knob on his effect pedal for what feels like hours.
The dis-harmonic indulgence of Xiu Xiu Larsen wears thin much faster than their 50 minute stage time; resulting in a huge sense of relief when their 5 minute closing song -which consists of merely every band member shaking an egg shaker into a microphone- ends. It seemed a fittingly pretentious finishing move for a self-consciously artsy set, but then, I probably “just don’t get it.”