martes, 1 de agosto de 2017

XTC - Nonsuch (1992)


Y ya le tocó el turno al disco Rey de XTC; el que para mi representa el cenit de su carrera musical: Nonsuch. 
Es también el que mas he escuchado, y que, sin embargo, sigue guardando cierto misterio para mi, no solo por sus emblemas, que parecen sacados de un tratado de alquimia del Renacimiento, sino también por sus canciones, a veces muy beatlesque, otras con una tremenda carga de existencialismo: pero todas pareciendo guiñar el ojo como para insinuarte que dicen más de lo que parecen decir. Un pequeño cofre repleto de joyas... le tengo un especial cariño a Humble Daisy, que podría estar firmada por Lennon y McCartney. 






Artista: XTC
Álbum: Nonsuch
Año: 1992
Género: pop rock, beat, rock progresivo
Duración: 1:03:19
Nacionalidad: Inglesa


Lista de Temas:
01. The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead
02. My Bird Performs
03. Dear Madam Barnum
04. Humble Daisy
05. The Smartest Monkeys
06. The Disappointed
07. Holly Up on Poppy
08. Crocodile
09. Rook
10. Omnibus
11. That Wave
12. Then She Appeared
13. War Dance
14. Wrapped In Grey
15. The Ugly Underneath
16. Bungalow
17. Books Are Burning



Alineación
Andy Partridge / Lead & backing vocals, acoustic & electric guitars, tambourine, percussion, bell tree, circus band, keyboard programming, synthsizers, shaker, harmonica, cheers

Colin Moulding / Lead & backing vocals, bass guitar, electric & acoustic guitars
Dave Gregory / Synthesizers, electric & acoustic guitars, e-bow guitars, backing vocals, hammond organ, piano, cheers, church bell, acme thunderer, circus band

with:

Dave Mattacks / Drums, samples, percussion, tambourine, shaker
Florence Lovegrove / Viola
Gina Griffin / Violin
Gus Dudgeon / Percussion, ringmaster, tambourine, chorus, cheers
Guy Barker / Flugelhorns & trumpets
Neville Farmer / chorus
Rose Hull / Cello

Stuart Gordon / Violin











La portada del álbum es una foto de Palacio de Nonsuch en Surrey , del libro Una breve historia de Ewell y Nonsuch , por Cloudesley S. Willis. El palacio ya no existe, pero en sus antiguos terrenos incluye el actual Nonsuch Park entre Ewel y Cheam.

Partridge pensó que Nonsuch significaba “No existe”, cuando en realidad quiere decir “Unico”, “Sin Par”. Fascinado, lo eligió como título del disco. Mas tarde se daría cuenta del error.











El disco fue nominado a un premio Grammy como Mejor Álbum de Música Alternativa. El tema "The Disappointed" fue nominado a un premio Ivor Novello. Alcanzó el número uno en la clasificación de álbumes alternativos de los colleges americanos de la revista Rolling Stone y el numero 97 en el ranking de álbumes de los EE.UU. Fue el segundo éxito Top 30 consecutivo de la banda en la lista de álbumes del Reino Unido, alcanzando el numero 28.







Del disco se extrajeron tres sencillos: "The Disappointed " (que alcanzó el número 33 en la lista de singles del Reino Unido), " La balada de Peter Pumpkinhead " (que alcanzó el número 71 en la lista de singles del Reino Unido) y "Wrapped in Grey", que fue la manzana de la discordia con Virgin, pues la compañia había decidido retirarla.





Se realizaron dos videos promocionales: "The Disappointed" y "La Balada de Peter Pumpkinhead".








En este periodo, el núcleo de la banda estaba formado por Partridge, Moulding y Gregory, y existía mucha cohesión y entendimiento entre ellos.









Los tres pasaban de los treinta años , y Partridge ya era padre. Quizás por eso el disco suena más maduro, por lo que algunos lo han clasificado de senil, creo que equivocadamente. Me parece más bien que con él, XTC sale definitivamente de una época más ligera y a menudo superficial (cuantos genios hay que son tremendamente superficiales?).








Para concluir, con respecto a la imagínería de Nonsuch, este conjunto de láminas me recuerda a las estatuas de los Jardines de Bomarzo, las figuras del Mutus Liber, las del Sueño de Polífilo, las del Arte de la memoria de Giordano Bruno, la lengua de los pájaros de Fulcanelli, los Emblemata de Alciato, los arcanos del Tarot, etc.  no quiero insinuar con eso que Partridge y compañía fueran alquimistas, ocultistas o algo así, pero si que supieron sacar de la iconografía renacentista  un gran partido estético. Les he puesto todas  las láminas, una por cada canción, y en muy alta definición por si quieren bajarlas.








Una canción de la que quiero tratar con mas detenimiento, porque me lo pidió un amigo,es Rook.  Dice Andy Partridge que surgió en un momento de bloqueo creativo, en el que se sentía totalmente estéril para crear. De pronto brotó esta canción, y le costó grabar la demo porque estaba ahogado en lagrimas. Tuvo la sensación de ver su propia realidad, de verse cara a cara en un espejo, reconociendo la propia finitud, la propia impermanencia. 
Dice que ni el entiende la letra, cosa que le da mas encanto a la canción, por lo tanto... quien sabe que significado tiene ese cuervo.... si me permites decir lo que a mi me evoca, te lo digo. En la alquimia medieval, el cuervo simbolizaba el proceso de putrefacción, de desintegración que precede al renacimiento. Algo así como que la semilla debe pudrirse en la tierra para poder germinar. 







Las canciones, aparentemente yeyés y superficiales, tienen más contenido del que se les atribuiría en una primera escucha. Por ejemplo, el tema con el que se abre el álbum,  "La balada de Peter Pumpkinhead", narra las aventuras de un imaginario Jesús de la época actual que hace el bien y muere finalmente por ello. La idea es señalar las diferencias entre la iglesia y las enseñanzas reales de Jesús. Esa diferencia se ha vuelto dolorosamente obvia: es difícil imaginar organizaciones más lejos de Jesús que la mayoría de las iglesias modernas. 

Aquí tienen el álbum completo:






Les dejo con una excelente crítica del disco escrita por Bruno, en Paper Blog:

- Como los buenos vinos, XTC es una banda que mejoró con los años. 

No por nada el grupo comandado por Andy Partridge entregó ya en su período maduro dos grandes álbumes como "Orange and lemons" (1989) y este "Nonsuch". Ambos, discos de una fertilidad compositiva asombrosa para una banda que a esa altura ya contaba con más de 15 años de carrera y grandes discos en su haber. 





Elegante, fino y barroco. Desbordante de ideas y música, Nonsuch se nos presenta con la forma de un verdadero caleidoscopio pop. Su fuente de inspiración: unos lejanos Beatles psicodélicos, pero rodeados de matices jazzeros, orquestaciones, pequeños milagros de cámara y sobre todo, mucho buen gusto. 






El viaje es largo (17 temas, demasiados: un vicio de la primera época de reinado del formato CD) pero rico en tesoros. El power pop de "Peter Pumpinkhead" le da pie a uno de los highlights del disco: la exquisita "My bird performs". Un tema completo, lleno de música y donde ocurre todo lo que tiene que ocurrir para que un momento pop sea elevado a la categoría de Arte. Escuchen los arreglos, las trompetas, los soniditos que pasan por atrás...¡Pura música!





Y el mundo se vuelve Pop y Brillante subiendo otro escalón con "Dear Madam Barnum" y sus coros y tambourines. Un poco más adelante llegamos a "The disappointed", un mid pop exquisito que bien podría ser el primo cercano de "King for a day" (1989) y la reposada "Rook", con Partridge en voz y piano jugando a la música de salón victoriano. 






Promediando el set aparecen otras gemas: "Then she appeared" cita la forma compositiva de "The meeting place" (Skylarking, 1986) y "War dance", compuesta por Colin Moulding, es sombría y amenazante.
En el tramo final, el vaivén de cámara de "Wrapped in grey" tiñe de melancolía la tarde y la banda se despide con "Books are burning". "Los libros se están quemando/ y tu lo sabes/ donde los libros se queman/ lo que sigue es la gente". -





    

Para terminar, un interesantisimo artículo que encontré en All About Jazz dedicado a las remezclas de Yes, Jethro Tull y XTC  que realizó Steven Wilson. De XTC remezcló precisamente este álbum,  Nonsuch, tan menospreciado por algunos criticos que lo consideran decadente... 



XTC
Nonsuch
Panegyric
1992 (reissued 2013)

By the time Nonsuch (Virgin) was released in1992, XTC had been off the road for a decade, thanks to Andy Partridge's stage fright, and was a drummer-less trio that brought in different players for each successive album, beginning with 1983's Mummer (Virgin). But if three years had passed since Oranges and Lemons (Virgin, 1989), a further three years out from the particularly successful Skylarking (Virgin, 1986), Nonsuchconsolidated the many influences that had turned this group from an clever New Wave band on early albums including the self-effacingly titled White Music and follow-up Go 2(Both Virgin, 1978), into an increasingly quirky pop group with touchstones ranging from Beatles-esque psychedelia to Beach Boys-driven harmonies. 









Each successive album represented a leap forward, in particular for emerging primary songwriter Andy Partridge and occasional (but superb) compositional contributor Colin Moulding; Nonsuch's 17 tracks may have come largely from Partridge's pen, but Moulding's five contributions were equally strong, in particular "The Smartest Monkey," though it was Partridge's poppier "The Disappointed," rocking "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" and balladic "Wrapped in Grey" that were the chosen singles. Too bad; hindsight being what it is, "The Smartest Monkey" might well have made a smashing hit. But we'll never know. 



Meanwhile, after playing with a variety of fine drummers, XTC recruited Dave Mattacks for Nonsuch, and couldn't have made a better choice. First coming to attention with British folk-rockers Fairport Convention (an on-again/off-again relationship that was, at this point, on), here—as was pretty much the case with any context he in which he would subsequently find himself—he acted as the unshakable anchor around which everything else swirled. That said, Mattacks was a deceptively simple drummer; deceptive, because he may have seemed to play very little when compared to many of his contemporaries, but every single hit of a stick—every pump of his foot—counted, and there was never anything superfluous. His tone was huge; few drummers can get the kind of natural tom tom sound Mattacks does when he hits them—just once—at the start of each chorus on "The Smartest Monkeys." And few drummers can build a song the way Mattacks does— again, on "The Smartest Monkeys," a simple move from quarter-note ride cymbal to quarter-note high hat completely altering its complexion. 




But it's not just Mattacks that makes "The Smartest Monkey" work so well; Moulding's bass playing is impressive, too, his syncopated lines intimately locked in with the drummer's bass drum. Dave Gregory may often be overlooked since he doesn't contribute any writing to the group, but his brief keyboard solo mid-song smacks of Canterbury keyboardists like David Sinclair and Dave Stewart. XTC wasn't anywhere near being a progressive rock band but, based on structural undercurrents, there's no denying that its members were fans, at least to some extent; from a textural perspective, as well, XTC had long graduated to a far broad palette than heard on its early recordings. It's no surprise that Wilson is a fan (he only remixes projects that have personal appeal); looking at XTC's career, it's clear that this a group possessed of no boundaries or constraints, and if it's not a progressive rock band, it sure is a band familiar with the concept of progression, as each member became not just a better player over the years, but a better conceptualist as well. 

Wilson's surround mix is, perhaps, more appealing here than the stereo remix if only because the original sounded very good to start with. Still, Wilson's stereo remix reveals greater clarity, revealing more small details, but the surround mix is a perfect example of how Wilson uses It to place the listener inside the music. 







More than either Close to the Edge or Benefit, Nonsuch is loaded down with bonus features. First, there's an eighteenth track, Moulding's previously unreleased 12-string-driven, country-tinged "It Didn't Hurt a Bit"—included on both the CD and DVD or Blu-Ray, depending on the version (again, great going, Panegyric!). But It's the DVD/Blu-Ray that holds the biggest treasure in a box that is modeled, design-wise, on the double-disc Crimson 40th Anniversary Series , with a slip-cased, four-panel digipak and included booklet of photos and reminiscences from band members (including Mattacks). 


Partridge fans who've indulged in his eight-volume Fuzzy Warbles series of demos and other curios—released on his Ape House label between 2002 and 2006, with a ninth disc included in the Fuzzy Warbles Collection box from 2006—will already have most of the demos included here, but there are still seven appearing here for the first time, including some actual songs that never made the cut to the finished record, including "Always Winter, Never Christmas," "Rip Van Reuben" and "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love," along with demos for included tracks like "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead," which reveal just how complete his demos were before turning them over to the band. And while Moulding hasn't been so forthcoming with his demos, here there are eight of his work tapes here, revealing a similarly complete composer; even the programmed drum beats driving the demo of "My Bird Performs" are already defined signatures, but with Mattacks ultimately playing them, they assume considerably more weight. 








A promo film for "Peter Pumpkinhead," while not live, is the closest we'll come to having an idea what XTC circa 1992 would have looked like, if only Partridge— clearly a man with a warped sense of humor when removed from the concert stage— could have gotten over his stage fright. though the group would ultimately make one live appearance on The Late Show, performing "Books are Burning." But some things are simply, and sadly, not to be. A similar film for "The Disappointed" is more cinematic, without any faux-live footage. 

But the most revealing feature on the video disc is the 50-minute Gus Dudgeon's Home Movies, filmed by the record producer of the Nonsuch sessions, and who would die tragically in a car accident with his wife in 2002. From working with a computer to map the drum groove to "Then She Appeared" to the part finally played, unshakable and in-the-pocket, by Mattacks, and with Partridge laying down an electric guitar part, it's an 18-minute window into the recording process that's rarely seen...and certainly not with XTC. From the lengthy construction of "Then She Appeared," the film moves to another day where the band is laying down bed tracks for "The Disappointed" live off the floor. It's as enlightening as the earlier segment, as it demonstrates that the group uses whatever approach best suits the song, There's also footage of the group running through "Didn't Hurt a Bit," as well as rehearsals and a tempo reset for the strangely dark and idiosyncratic "That Wave," initially taken at a much faster pace before being slowed down for the version that ultimately appears on the album.






And so, three completely different recordings, three completely different remixes and three completely different reasons for recommendation: Close to the Edge, for the remixes and an alternate version of "And You And I" that reveals plenty about Yes' approach to songwriting and arrangement; Benefit, which, well, benefits significantly from the clarity of Wilson's touch; and Nonsuch, a terrific album now sounding subtly improved in stereo but revealing even more in surround, with a bevy of extras that reveal much about a group that, since leaving the concert stage, enigmatically did most of its work behind the scenes. With more Wilson remixes due from all three groups, there's plenty to look forward to in the coming year. 






He hecho trampa:los tres últimos dibujos, no pertenecen a la imaginería de Nonsuch, sino a los emblemas de Alciato, del siglo XV. Como ven, se pueden confundir, y me inclino a pensar que Partridge se inspiró en estos emblemas para ilustrar su álbum.



el Canario

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