Album: Monstrance

Monstrance, APE
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The Independent Culture

Having recorded ambient/new-age soundscapes with Harold Budd, and psychedelic pastiche with XTC offshoot 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 after just two albums, 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 open-ended improvisations of startling invention. Clearly, there's an almost telepathic bond between the three, of the kind that drives the best jazz improvisers: Partridge's guitar work on "Black Swan Black" and "Winterwerk" has a touch and tone akin to Bill Frisell and Pat Metheny, while Andrews' piano and Barker's drumming have the thoughtful manner of ECM chamber jazz. Elsewhere, Beefheart's Magic Band and Krautrock pioneers Can are obvious direct influences.