XTC in the Press: 1994

December 1994

Bbc Radio 1 Live

Reviewed: December 1994
Genre: Rock & Pop
MOJO price: £8.49

"1979's answer to the Barron Knights?" asks the opening mock-Peel speech on this CD. Well...no. All the usual anti-XTC accusations of the band being too quirky, too clever, wearing glasses, etc remain true, but Andy Partridge's sparkling British Pop - in these challenging arrangements from sessions drawn from 1979-88 - prove that he could fit more bridges, melodies, choruses and middle-eights into one song than most bands manage in a career. Watch out for a furious No Thugs In Our House, the dislocated pop of Meccanik Dance and the wilfully scratchy I'm Bugged. Classic stuff. SH

Reviewed by Spike Hyde

© Copyright EMAP Digital Limited 2001.

December 15 1994
by Dave Bookman


After a 17-year association, pop perfectionists XTC have ended their relationship with Virgin Records. Despite critical acclaim and adulation from the most loyal fan base in rock, the group has had a long-standing problem getting the respect it deserves from the label.

At least New York City musician David Yazbek appreciates them. Yazbek, an acclaimed musician/producer in his own right, is putting together an XTC tribute album. Slated to contribute tracks are They Might Be Giants, Joe Jackson, Sarah McLachlan, Freedy Johnston, Ruben Blades and the band themselves.

Meanwhile, fans can check out the recently released BBC Live Recordings and explore Andy Partridge's ambient side on his collaboration with composer Harold Budd. As far as a new record goes, the band have been demoing new songs with Colin Moulding's tunes, which are said to be more upbeat than his contributions to the band's last album, Nonsuch. Anyone wanna start a record label?

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The Southeast's aLTeRnaTivE Music
August 1994

Andy Partridge chats with Joe Silva

QRM: Did you know much of Harold's work beforehand?

AP: Not a great deal, no. He was a rather romantic kind of shadowy figure that played the odd chord with a lot of space in between. The stuff of his that I'd heard, I liked the mixture of this pure meditation coming-at-ya thing and the audacity of it. I'd had a few things of his and I'd heard a few things of his. I don't have many records. I used to have quite a few vinyl albums, but a few years ago I just gave all my vinyl collection away one day because I wasn't playing them and now I don't have tha many records. But I'd heard quite a few things of Harold's. In fact a year before we got together, there was a documentary about the fun parks on Coney Island which was made by an American company and being shown in Britain. I was getting ready to go somewhere in the evening and was looking round the door and thought "Oh, that's really nice music in this documentary." not knowing it was Harold. And then they played a piece of music and I thought "I know that. Oh my God, it's a piece of mine!" They'd lifted "Frost Circus" which is one of the "Homo Safari" series and put it in there. And a little while earlier in the States, Harold had seen the same documentary and obviously he recognized his own music, but quite like the other music in there which was mine. So it was sort of out of coincidence that we both got to see that film with our music in it and liking the other person music, not particularly knowing who it was at the time.

QRM: Is he particularly known in ambient circles?

AP: I suppose he's got to be one of the top three in that neck of the woods. And I know that he doesn't necessarily like the gentle ghetto expression of "ambient." And he'll positively claw your eyes out if you say the words "New Age." Yeah, I would say he possibly one of the top three along wit Brian Eno, and who else. . ..

QRM: Kitaro?

AP: Yeah, um. . .my God, Kitaro's offensive. . .I don't know why. I just don't like what he does. One doesn't need to necessarily have a name on that stuff, it's just here's track number 145 and we'll have track 146 in a minute. Kind of Orwellian. . .It's probably a good approach.

QRM: So you didn't listen to any ambient music to get yourself primed for this project?

AP: His record company All Saints sent me a couple of his CDs to listen to, which to be truthful, put me off initially because I thought this is perfect as it is, there is nothing I can contribute to this. It really was. It just existed. One was Music For Three Pianos and another was The White Arcade and just before we started our record they sent The Dawn's Early Light which I liked the most because I liked the poetry stuff on there. Then actually meeting Harold and suggesting that we improvise together and seeing if the marriage is going to work, and he did very well. We were giving each other goose bumps up and down the back of the neck all afternoon. And so it was obvious it was going to work and my early fears were unfounded. But initially I was put off because his music has this framework, kind of like a swiss cheese..all held together with holes and I was kind of fearful of treading in those holes and spoiling the whole delicate weave.

QRM: I thought it was interesting that a lot of the solo material you've released isn't really noodling on sythesizers, or anything like that.

AP: There was a branch in the earlier XTC career which I was very interested in following and did follow for a while. It was a branch shaped like the Dub records I did or the Homo Safari experients or odd bits and pieces that were usually studio down time or cheap studio time and they were experiments. There was no pressure for it to be a song. But that kind of branch seemed to wither and die off in me as I got more and more seduced by song writing and rather strict structuring, which is kind of what I'm known for I guess - the very structured, clockwork, mechanical toy kind of song. The trinket as it were. I've wanted to make a longer record of that kind of stuff, so for me it was a nice journey, out and about into what I thought had died off.

QRM: You'll probably contradict me, but having been a musician myself, isn't it to sort of easy to noodle about on a synthesizer, give it an interesting title and call it "ambient?" How do you juxtapose that with what you and Harold wound up with?

AP: Yes, you're right. It is easy. Where somebody else is involved..and we're both picky people, we're both very exacting in what will do and what won't do. . .uh, the tough element is that it all came from improvisation. And if it didn't work then it was binned, or it was erased, or we just didn't follow that line along anymore. And we threw away about a third of the stuff that we recorded that just wasn't happening. And aborted other countless other things that weren't happening. I mean, we'd just come in each morning over a two week period and just improvise. Sometimes [we'd have] a springboard theme, a little motif like "dum dum da dee dum" or it would be just a chord change. That would be the initial springboard. And we'd improvise and if it didn't work we'd take a break and wipe that and go back or change over instrumentation and try something different. The tough thing I think is making the improvisation. . .in fact you don't make an improvisation. . .you make something that "is" an improvisation and if it works, you get that wonderful glow and you know you're making some sort of alchemy. It's a totally different feeling to writing a song.

QRM: Did you ever feel like you were treading in uncertain territory at times?

AP: My only trepidation would be, and again, has totally dissipated, that certain critics would say that "Aha! You're merely jumping on some ambient bandwagon!" Not that that would hurt me, bacause as I did say, we did have a branch of experimental, purely musical things early on in the XTC career. For me that was just a return to that sort of feel.

QRM: How about the instrumentation? Did you sort of leap right in and say that you were going to play guitar here and there?

AP: The only constants seemed to be that Harold never played the guitar and I never narrated the poetry. Otherwise we just took whatever was around. I would sit at a Hammond, he would sit next to me on a grand and we'd play. And that might work out and then Harold might say "Well we need a bell there. . ." and I might say "We need to highlight the top line on the last piece. . ." so we'd overdub maybe a synth or something that picked out the high line. Or Harold might come in one morning and say "I've got these shakers and rattles and I'm going to shake these. . ." and I might sit at a synthesizer. And in the afternoon, I'd maybe pick up a guitar and he'd go back to sit on the piano. Or we'd have a poem that he would narrate and then the pair of us would sit at synthesizers. It was wherever you cast your eye literally, and largely just running on the gut feeling that acertain something needed. If we were either working on a title like "Okay we're going to play 'Through The Hill' now. . ." It doesn't exist but we're going to play it and then you'd literally just play your hunch. You would sit down and say "What is this about? I'm sitting down and designing a picture in my head that's hopefully not a million miles away from the picture in Harold's head. If I play the picture in my head and he play's the picture in his, we should get this sort of stereoscopic image working somehow." And sometimes we'd play to a title we already har and sometimes we'd play with a sensation like "This piece of music we're going to make this morning. . .let's go for a really vast sounding piece that you can fly above and see it sort of five miles below you in all it's detail and it's slipping away as your hovering over it this thing." or "Let's make a piece of music that's so tiny that all the glinting facets of it, all the little details, are worn smooth." We'd talk endlessly about what we were doing which helps a great deal, becasue that was the equivalent of writing the music out, we spoke. Sometimes we just played to a sound until it pulled us toward a title that existed or it pulled us to a feeling that we'd had and didn't know how to dress it.

April 1994, Issue 125
by Scott Schinder

On her third mainstream album Martinis & Bikinis (Virgin), one-time contemporary Christian songstress-turned-secular visionary Sam Phillips delivers an audacious art-pop classic that's both emotionally forthright and gently subversive. Phillips' producer/husband T Bone Burnett and an elite musical crew (including XTC bassist Colin Moulding) lend mildly psychedelicized sonic settings to Phillips' sharply observed, melodically crafty compositions, which she sings with an emotional authority that suggests an intimate knowledge of her subject matter. Tunes like "Sign Posts", "The Same Changes", "Strawberry Road" and "When I Fall" speak knowingly of grave personal and spiritual choices, while "I Need Love" is a cohesive and far-reaching statement of faith.

July 1994
ICE Cubes

Caroline has July 12 set as the [USA] release date for THROUGH THE HILL, an unlikely collaboration between XTC's Andy Partridge and Harold Budd, best known for his ambient work with artists like Brian Eno. The instrumental album features Budd on piano and organ, with Partridge on guitar, zither and percussion.

[Thanks to Mark Colan]

Boston Phoenix
March 25, 1994
Cellars by Starlight

single of the week
Jennifer Trynin Everything's Different Now

Don't know about you, but I'd be pretty intimidated if one-third of the greatest pop group in the world were guesting on my record. But eclectic rocker Jennifer Trynin has never lacked for musical confidence, and her new single, “Everthing's Different Now” (Summerville), which includes guitar work by Dave Gregory of XTC, marks her current incarnation as a hard-edged rocker.

Although her vocal still holds traces of the sophisticated jazz influence of her early tapes, the song's set to a snarling funk riff. The lyric tells of a couple beginning a really bad relationship, but they don't know it yet (it's always nice to feel smarter than the characters in a song). And Gregory's brief but potent solo helps build tension. Since Trynin borrowed the song title from 'Til Tuesday's last and best album, it's a nice coincidence that Aimee Mann turns up in the chorus vocals of the B-side “Snow,” which begins with a heavily distorted guitar/bassline a la Yo La Tengo and builds to a dreamlike mix of chants and fuzztone. Trynin's been getting a lot of local attention lately; may she continue to justify it.

[Thanks to Jason C. Langley]

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