Live: Startling; Stirring; Disconcerting. XXL, Café OTO.

If a Friday night down in Dalston entails your standard conglomeration of they that sport glasses thick of rim, faces stained with frown and legs splatted in substandard golfing slacks then a collaboration between post-rock mathematicians di Torino Larsen and Xiu Xiu (or to put it bluntly Jamie Stewart) is a little less orthodox than your typical roll-around round Efes. For XXL prove a startling; stirring; ultimately disconcerting proposition amid the higgledy-piggledy chair legs and rich ales of 'Britain's coolest venue.' It's arguably London's finest and tonight it accredits this artistic coming-together with an essential intrigue; a night to in a way proffer a raison d'être.
Upon collision, Stewart and Larsen emit a warm yet wicked emotivity; the claustrophobic jerks of somehow humid guitar injected by the former into the madcap vibrations of the latter to create something that's utterly compulsive and that, to resort to hackneyed terminology, is infinitely greater than the sum of its parts. For together they bear semblance to an explosive, unconventional orchestra as sticked Chinese cymbals clang; distorted circuit boards fizzle and twitch; bowed xylophones groan; contorted accordions moan as if exhaling their last; and theremins warble dulcet bittersweet nothings. The sirens of that wretched world beyond these fogged windows pervade each and every intersong silence meanwhile, wrenching thoughts back to our recurringly dismal reality.

But for one brief hour our waking atrocities are adjourned as we marvel at what feels as though a jubilant opera: it's an unexpected impression although Larsen in many respects resemble a sort of Mediterranean Mogwai – albeit an artistic entity commensurately bereft of any lightness that may possibly occasion – and Stewart's voice, well, once as warm as the collective proverbial embrace they tonight engender is as histrionic as ever. And via a more direct, and with it vocal approach that's evidently been opted for with regard to forthcoming third Düde, his impact is increasingly emphatic. Meddling with, or often rather peddling electronic manipulations, the avant-pop luminary is here on his garde and given the proficiency of his temporary cohorts is afforded the opportunity to morph almost into – dare I say it – a frontman. It's odd and a little awkward to begin with but once this narrow preconception of Stewart be blown wide open it befits him down to his cotton socks, the avant-garde effect engaged in a strangely concise format.

However the relevance of the term temporary oughtn't ever be glossed over within the context of XXL: as all half decent improvisational artists innately are, tonight is all about the moment and for those here congregated the show unravelling before our ears feels as though game, if never quite life-changing. Dissonance momentarily dissolves into some divine post-punk pulsation midway through, almost on a whim as il batterista repeatedly uptakes a miniature gong only to repeatedly thwack it to the floor with a weathered stick of some sort. Thus if indubitably at their best when tapping into a more organic aesthetic, when things turn somewhat more synthetic these live drums bestow a raw vim upon the roll of their unerringly crestfallen waves of creeping melancholia. The brute force of three heftily crunched guitars squealing in disharmony as though condemned to the crushing yard contributes, before things turn a little more experimental as all manner of equipment be unsheathed, inclusive of enlarged shiny shaft. Euphemisms aside, buzzing resonances emerge from ampage whenever this forbidding vibrator approaches pickup as it blurs further a pop song of sorts that sits somewhere slightly uncomfortable between that melancholy aforesaid and a rather more euphoric consistency.

The temporarily fashioned five-piece then return to electronic palpitations that, given the increase in both passion and personal envelopment over their bewitching hour, seem ever more penetrative; sounding as though an industrial estate imploding in on its own environmentally unsound grotesqueness. It's greeted with the inconspicuous, yet appreciative applause one may anticipate of such a humble café – none of that Jazz Café bullcrap – and whether it be led by Stewart's perpetually troubled, breathily stilted voice or their richly erudite instrumental narratives this material is, as said, stronger than that of either act solo. New material is finer still and although not their poppiest – that'd indubitably be the wrong word – it'd immediately appear their most listenable; as digestible as the Oriental culinary fare for which OTO is subtly famed.

If through slipping into XXL Stewart may facilitate the exposure of Larsen then it'd arguably be the best thing he's yet to do and as they end all vigorously shaking their respective, bead-bloated things so too would we, were we not in public and so forth.