By: Phil Santala

If you need a little space, then maybe Monstrance is right up your alley. Monstrance’s double disc debut features XTC frontman Andy Partridge with Shriekback‘s keyboardist Barry Andrews and drummer Martyn Barker. This self-titled set (released in April on Partridge’s own Ape label) has received mixed reviews, many of which feature questionable descriptions of the band and its music.

The trio describe this as “live improvisational eletronica.” This description brings to mind Sound Tribe Sector 9, Particle, and Signal Path. Elements of those bands are here, though their particular styles are not. Monstrance’s style moves into a truer jazz style, though something short of say MMW‘s work. Often times, the beats are slower and the jams more open and less cohesive. The resulting sound reminds one less of the aforementioned bands and more of a two-disc collection of Grateful Dead “Drums/Space” segments.

The album was recorded live-in-the-studio over three sessions, which lends a somewhat chaotic feel to the album. A two-disc set seems a little excessive given some of the alarmingly huge holes in the tracks, but the album has its moments, including some particularly tight, fascinating jams. Fans of the aforementioned bands may be a little jaded having listened to much better examples of this type of work for years. The fat could have been trimmed without compromising what makes up the meat of this release. If this is what they had to leave in, what was left out?

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