Reviews: Monstrance: Monstrance
More info...

Alternative Press

Post-punk legends go long with their improvised rock.

Monstrance - Monstrance
Posted by Chris French on 31-Jul-07 @ 02:10 PM

[2.5/5] It's doubtful that when Andy Partridge said his seminal post-punk group XTC had gone "in the fridge" earlier this year, even the most devoted fans expected the guy to rebound with a double-CD of spacey, improvised rock; but with Monstrance, that's just the odd detour Partridge has taken. Joined by original XTC keyboardist Barry Andrews, as well as Andrews' Shriekback bandmate Martyn Barker on drums, Partridge scrapes, chimes and reverberates his way through nearly two hours' worth of overdub-free improv-mercifully edited down from eight-plus hours by Future Sound Of London guitarist Stuart Rowe and engineer Merv Carswell. Anchored by Barker's coffin-tight grooves, the set's best moments (see the alien-dub terror track "Torturetainment" and the skittering, almost-pop-song-length "Mig") come in brief-but-gripping flashes. Whether you've got the patience to wade through both discs to find them, of course, is another story. (APE HOUSE) Aaron Burgess

Copyright © 2005 Alternative Press Magazine, Inc.

May 11, 2007

Ape House
Grade: 3 stars

Monstrance plays by its own set of rules: no bass, no overdubs or editing of any kind, and absolutely no pre-planning. Everything is improvised on the spot on the self-titled debut from XTC's Andy Partridge, former XTC keyboardist Barry Andrews and drummer Martyn Barker (Shriekback), and as intriguing a prospect as that is, it results in maddening inconsistency and extended periods of self-indulgent excess that would send Philip Glass running for the hills.

Separated into two discs of material, the experimental Monstrance is full of shape-shifting, constantly evolving works that dabble in ambient and otherworldly sounds, before descending into utter chaos. Nowhere is that more evident than on “Torturetainment,” an exercise in dissonant, bi-polar guitar that zaps from one corner of the universe to the other before retreating into a cave of hypnotic some would call “boring” drone and then bleeding into the quiet beauty of “The Floating World.”

And then there's “I Lovely Cosmonaut,” the ridiculously abstract opener to disc 2 [sic] that's hesitant, aimless and takes forever to take shape, but when it does, its discordant guitar parts draw poignancy from Andrew's gentle keyboard washes and cascades, and Barker's expertly brushed drums that is until the alien transmission ending. Subdued and watery is “Mig” and “Black Swan Black” is a gradually building epic that teases and tantalizes, but true to form, Partridge and company don't provide the predictable payoff and that, almost in and of itself, makes it wonderful.

Magical and mysterious, imaginative and fumbling, Monstrance provides evidence of both the best and worst aspects of improvisational music. What Monstrance is missing is that innate sense of flow and intuition that jazz musicians have ingrained in their DNA. Mind-blowing guitar parts, swirling keyboards and wild drum rides prevail, but there are lengthy stretches of inactivity and “strange just for the sake of being strange” movements (“Oodoo”) that you have to wade through to get to them. Patience is the key word here.

- Peter Lindblad

[Thanks to J. D. Mack]


Genre: Jazz » Avant-Garde Jazz
Editor's review
What do you do when you've mastered the art of the pop song? If you're the XTC bandleader, you tackle its musical opposite: avant-garde jazz. Partridge's Monstrance project dips into murky sonics and amiable atonality. It's got none of the melodies and much of the soul of his famed rock bunch.

Copyright ©2007 CNET Networks, Inc. All rights reserved.

Sunday Tribune

YOU ARE HERE: 27 April 2007 / / Tribune Review / Arts


CDs of the week - Rock

Monstrance Monstrance Ape (2cd, 100m) . . . . .

HAVING recorded ambient/newage soundscapes with Harold Budd, and psychedelic pastiche with Dukes Of Stratosfear, the exploratory nature of this Andy Partridge project is no surprise - less of a surprise, probably, than his reunion with keyboardist Barry Andrews. Andrews left XTC in 1979, going on to form avant-rock combo Shriekback, which also supplies the third member of Monstrance, drummer Martyn Barker. Recorded with no planning or rehearsal, this double album is a series of openended improvisations of startling invention. There's an almost telepathic bond between the three, of the kind that drives the best jazz improvisers. AG

Shepherd Express
April 04, 2007

CD Review
Monstrance (Ape House)

by David Luhrssen

April 04, 2007
With XTC on hold, founder-guitarist Andy Partridge amused himself recently by jamming with original XTC keyboardist Barry Andrews and Shriekback drummer Martyn Barker. The record button was on and some of the session has been released under the name Monstrance. The two-disc set contains spontaneously improvised music with echoes of spacey jazz and the more hermetic side of Krautrock. Tantalizing ideas are never resolved or developed past their initial glimmer; the germs of a dozen unrealized songs weave in and out. The best moments, however, don't add up to the sum of the album's running time.

March 28, 2007
Positively Yeah Yeah Yeah: New Tunes


Like an imaginary soundtrack to those early black-and-white cartoons where city streetscapes come alive and hover, XTC cofounder Andy Partridge gets his freak wiggle on next week in a loose, layered, freeform two-CD set that reunites him with an old mate from his heady, post-Punk days. Released on his own boutique label, Ape House Records, Monstrance is an improvised, instrumental three-man round table, with original XTC keyboardist Barry Andrews and the drummer from his Andrews' Shriekback, Martyn Barker. Recorded over a three-day period in 2005 and 2006, the fruit of the trio's unfastened, baggy jams was boiled down by Future Sound of London guitarist Stuart Rowe, free of overdubs and studio edits. Mind-altering highlights include the 16-minute "Priapple" and the piano flirtation of "Little Field." Other Ape House releases are also due Tuesday domestically for the first time, including the UK's poppy Milk and Honey Band and two other projects Partridge's hands have been on -- Canadian Veda Hille's Return of the Kildeer and Partridge's 2003 collaboration with Peter Blegvad, Orpheus: The Lowdown.
copyright 2007 Lightborne Publishing Inc.

Go back to Chalkhills Articles.