The old saw about couples that have been together for years starting to look like one another is actually rooted in some science, and the same might apply to collaborative projects. Ciautistico!, the first union of American art pop stalwarts Xiu Xiu with the even-longer-standing Italian experimental/post-rockers Larsen as XXL emphasized those XXs, with the tracks being lead by Jamie Stewart being ones that could fit easily on A Promise or The Air Force. It was a good album, but it felt Xiu Xiu was a bit stuck in their ways and Larsen were hanging in the background too much. Subsequent releases brought out the sort of noodling and compositional intrigue that was missing. At last, a union had been formed.

It’s been six years since the last XXL album, Düde. Such a gap shouldn’t be a concern for a project like this, which thrives on the opportunities of improvisation. However, the emphasis on shouldn’t only grows louder the longer you’re with their latest, Puff O’Gigio. Neither Xiu Xiu nor Larsen seem to have shown up, and in their place are a bunch of half-hearted exercises in soundscapery. It purports itself as an Album, with a designated intro and outro, but they lead in and out of nowhere.

Xiu Xiu fans who have worn out their copies of last year’s FORGET and are jonesing for next year’s Girl with Basket of Fruit might be salivated by the dizzying energy of first proper track, ‘Ghost Maid,’ with its beyond-hyperactive synths, at least, at first. The longer they stay on this course, the more apparent it becomes that they’ve done this kind of thing so much better before, like on FORGET knockout ‘Get Up.’ Only velvety spoken word from Larsen’s Fabrizio Modonese Palumbo gives you something worth paying attention to.

Later, ‘Carissimo’ with its warped synths and drums that spin circles upon circles, becomes a game of wondering when it’ll actually start. When Stewart comes in with spoken word of his own on ‘Caroline Rama,’ it seems like we might be getting somewhere, but his would-be haunting narrative only ends up being brooding in the worst way possible. With its mentioning of a “666” carving, it feels like something that tries to be edgy while laughing in the face of edginess. He’s barely a presence on this album, and when he does appear, it feels like he’s sent in an underrehearsed understudy. Following it is the two-part ‘Polar Bear Boogie,’ the name of which is about the only thing notable. The slower guitar and feedback provided by Larsen just makes them sound like a store value approximation of post-rock. Not even the addition of theremin helps.

There are a few isolated moments of satisfaction, like the ‘Freres Jacques’-esque guitar melody on ‘Welcome to My Planet’ and the accordion leading into the discombobulating melody on ‘Queen of Koalas,’ but there isn’t a single track that comes together as a complete idea nor is there a single moment where it sounds like Xiu Xiu and Larsen are on the same page. Had it been their first go, we could perhaps chalk it up to them working the kinks out. By now, they should know better.