Monstrance CD [Ape House]

Music Reviews
Monstrance CD [Ape House]
Apr 1, 2007, 20:18



“So did we all just say: ‘godless, heartless enormous monster bunny!!' AT THE SAME TIME?  You know, I think we did.”  -Barry Andrews

Any time Andy Partridge's name appears on a CD, it seems people are hoping to hear a repeat of their favorite XTC records.  Where this comes from will never be known, but, like the Beatles before him, Partridge may never fully shed the pop sheath of his most famous output.  Notice that on the Ape House (Partridge's own label) web site, the first feature in the blog is an absolutely scathing review  of this record, complaining, essentially, that it is not XTC.  What that reviewer was expecting, no one will ever know.  No one seems to have picked up that former XTC member (and Shriekback founder) Barry Andrews is part of this collaboration.  Also missing from the equation seems to be Martyn Barker, also a member of Shriekback and occasional member of Billy Bragg's The Blokes.   If Radiohead made this record, it would have gone gold by now.  That's not to slag Radiohead; good for them for being inventive.  Now then, why can't more XTC fans have an open mind when it comes to music made by people who were a part of that band?

Take XTC out of your mind when deciding to listen to this record.  Replace it, if you will, with The Swans, or maybe Isis, feeling a little less heavy.  This record was recorded as part of a lengthy improvisation session, then cut together to make a cohesive 2-disc set.  In that sense, it's much less a series of songs, Frankensteined together to create a lovely 12-song CD, ready for mass consumption.  It's ambient, but not slight; it's obvious that the group did not set out to make an “ambient” record.  Monstrance is similar in this spirit to take Miles Davis, who often would have his band play in the studio for long periods of time, then have the producer make sense of the music made.  Unlike Miles, however, Monstrance does not veer into a jazz odyssey, pooting and clunking away as though entrapped inside a summer band camp from hell.   As a result of recording and compiling in this manner, there is no one song that can be pointed to as a “standout.”  It is truly a record in its entirety, meant to be popped into a player and allowed to meander in and out of your brain for a sunny morning, enticing your brain to wake up as much as your caffeinated beverage of choice might call to you while still prying your eyes open.Â

There is a breezy joyfulness to the recordings that seems to showcase a fundamental freedom from stress, which is odd when you consider two of the three musicians here were involved in the spastic spree “Meccanik Dancing.”  Listening to this grouping of sounds is akin to hearing Robert Fripp cut loose with Brian Eno.  It's weird, pretty in its droning and oddly calming.  More, please. [Ape House]

-Amanda Nichols

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