Andy Partridge: Fuzzy Warbles, Vol. 1 / Fuzzy Warbles, Vol. 2

Gary Glauber

For fans of Andy Partridge and his music, these first two Fuzzy Warbles are a wonderful way to pass the time until the next official XTC release.

Andy Partridge

Fuzzy Warbles, Vol. 1Fuzzy Warbles, Vol. 2

Label: Ape House
US Release Date: Available as import
UK Release Date: 2002-12-02

There are two types of people in this world: XTC fanatics and the rest. This criminally under-appreciated band has been plying their musical wares since the late 1970s, growing from punkish brash new wavers into the standard bearers of occasionally orchestrated sophisticate Beatle-esque pop. While the line-up has shrunk over the decades, the creative duo remains the same: bassist Colin Moulding and guitarist Andy Partridge write the songs. Of the two, Partridge's output has far outpaced Moulding's and also has included collaborations with other artists (as producer and/or musician), as well as a several experimental projects over the years (Lure of Salvage, Take Away, Through The Hill with Harold Budd, etc.).

Along the way, the band has accrued a number of admirers among fellow musicians and the listening public, most of whom display a rabid devotion to any and all things XTC. As with any popular/time-proven act, bootlegs arise over the years. Comprising those sundry bootlegs: live performances, songs from rare fan club collections, promotions spots, alternate studio takes, experimental noodling, and unreleased songs.

In the past few years, Partridge and XTC have done their part to subdue the bootleg traders, first with the live concert/BBC studio 4-CD collection Transistor Blast and this past year with the nicely packaged Coat of Many Cupboards that featured alternative versions, some unreleased songs and plenty recycled studio material.

When XTC was "on strike" to get out of their contract with Virgin Records, there was a long fallow period for listeners. Years went by without any studio releases (and all the while Partridge was penning new songs and making home-studio demos). So in a sense there was extra motivation for hungry XTC fans to trade any and all bootleg gems that could be procured. And while the activity is not quite on the same scale as those who collect Beatles or Grateful Dead boots, Andy Partridge is well aware of what's being circulated out there.

As a public service to his worshipping fans, Partridge now promises a step-up from those poor quality tenth-generation cassette bootlegs. This series of cleaned-up/approved bootlegs, entitled Fuzzy Warbles (a phrase lifted from Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange), could run anywhere from eight to twelve discs total, depending on how deep the treasure trove of material runs, and how ambitious Partridge gets about cleaning it up and releasing it.

Originally this was supposed to be an XTC project, but Colin Moulding begged out of it rather than chance the financial risk, so now it's out on new sub-label APE (Andy Partridge Editions). While some might balk at the price of these goodies, most of the converted brethren will find it a reasonable deal. For one, the sets come nicely packaged, with a full booklet of comments from Andy P., as well as lyrics.

Volume1 opens with "Dame Fortune", a fun, upbeat tune that didn't make the cut for Apple Venus One, but might yet have you jump for joy. Like many of the Apple Venus demos, Partridge gives it a very complete full-band treatment, simple drums, great bass, lead and rhythm guitar, as well as occasional harmonies.

"Born Out of My Mouth" is a pleasant surprise, another fairly completed song born out of a contributed piece of music to a Microsoft interactive musical website in 1995, as is "Everything", a song first written for Oranges And Lemons that fell by the wayside. "Goosey Goosey" is another catchy one that never made the final cut, this one originally intended for Nonsuch.

Smaller snippets include "Howlin' Burston", a promo for a local deejay in the manner of Captain Beefheart, the avant-garde experimental "Mogo", "Ocean's Daughter", a little instrumental bit of electronic ditty, and its surf-rock musical cousin "Space Wray". Along the same lines of electronic experimentation is the instrumental "EPNS", and an adaptation of an Ernest Noyes Brookings poem entitled "Rocket".

"Don't Let Us Bug Ya" is one of five polished songs written, then ultimately discarded, for the Disney/Tim Burton animated feature James and the Giant Peach. Offering Partridge scant remuneration (and no royalties), the job ultimately went to Disney go-to-guy Randy Newman and Partridge was left with five nice "bug-themed" songs. This one is from when James first meets the oversized insects.

"Summer Hot As This" has a little less polish than some of the other demos, yet sports some jazzy guitar synth, as well as some nice Dave Gregory guitar accompaniment. "Wonder Annual" is another fully realized studio demo, a song about female masturbation (though not obviously) that missed the cut first on Nonsuch and then later with Wasp Star (and again, one wonders why -- it's a great song).

For historical perspective, you get a buzzy version of "Merely a Man", a tinny but thoroughly likeable home croon version of "Miniature Sun", a great demo of "I Bought Myself a Liarbird" and a very bare-bones archaeological artifact wherein Partsy lays down improvised nonsense to capture an idea for a song that would become "Complicated Game".

True fans might best enjoy the two tracks related to "That Wave". In "That Wag" you get studio antics from Partridge who didn't realize he was being recorded while aiming to get "That Wave" down correctly. You are treated to his "Mr. Jiggs" imitation, and brief versions of how "That Wave" would sound as done by the Cure, the Smiths, and Dylan respectively.

Volume 2 opens with a dramatic mellotron musing entitled "Ridgeway Path", then segues into one of my favorite unreleased Partridge tunes "I Don't Want to Be Here". For the record, this is a different version than most of us boot-traders already have (this one stripped down and intended as a contribution to an aids benefit album from a US radio station). Originally Partridge wrote this song for UK pop chanteuse Cathy Dennis, who rejected it as "too wordy". Her loss is your gain -- though I contend it still would make for a fine XTC song in the studio.

The pleasant surprise of this disc is "Young Marrieds", a great song that never made it onto Wasp Star due to an overabundance of material. 'Tis a shame, really, since this fully-realized song is quite wonderful, an acid examination of young marital unhappiness.

Short takes include the Jamaican-style phone message "No One Here Available", "Miller Time", a short instrumental precursor to "Hold Me My Daddy" and "Goom", another in the avant-garde series where noises can be songs too.

Psychedelia is the unspoken theme behind Volume 2. Historical perspective for this volume is provided with alternate versions of "25 O'Clock", "You're the Wish You Are I Had", a very early version of "All of a Sudden", a great paisley version of "Summer's Cauldron" and a demo from the earlier years' "Chain of Command". Two separate versions of "Ra Ra for Red Rocking Horse" offer material for those keen on "compare and contrast" activities.

You get another of the James and The Giant Peach demos -- the optimistic piano-driven "Everything Will Be Alright", which Partridge declares is the nearest he every got to "You're Mother Should Know".

Also given here are two songs that were going to be passed off as lost tracks from obscure fictional 1960s bands and distributed with a magazine: "Then She Appeared" by the Goldens (which eventually found a home on Nonsuch) and "It's Snowing Angels" by Choc Cigar Chief Champion (a mellow sort of Lovin' Spoonful-type song that was included on the Hello Club CD from Andy Partridge).

"Ship Trapped in the Ice" is another lovely infectious song from 1995 that documents in simple metaphor how XTC was frozen out from creating new music by their poor deal with Virgin Records.

I admire these first two CDs, because with Fuzzy Warbles Partridge is putting a wide variety of different types of things out there, some more polished and finished, others decidedly seminal or experimental.

These CD's are not recommended to anyone as an introduction to XTC (or even to musical sub-set, the solo Andy Partridge). In fact, perhaps there should be some sort of fan qualification before purchase. These are not put out for close critical scrutiny (yet here I am reviewing it), but merely for devoted fan appreciation. Partridge is clever and intelligent and often goes beyond safe boundaries to push his music into new areas.

While under-appreciated by the general public, those who recognize him as a musical genius will find these ongoing CD's an enjoyable delight. Partridge loves puns and wordplay, and his lyrics reflect that, and his music stretches across a wide spectrum that is reflected here (some with release-ready production, others with a "warts n' all" harshness). Ian Cooper does a fine job mastering these two initial volumes.

Not only do they offer us rabid fans historical perspective (yes, I confess my love of all things Partridge), but also it gives a glimpse behind the music in the comments Partridge offers in the accompanying booklet, and serves up a few heretofore-unknown gems. Volume 1 has 19 tracks; Volume 2 has 18 more, and rumors abound that there are more than 250 tracks to be captured when all is said and done.

For fans of Andy Partridge and his music, these first two Fuzzy Warbles are a wonderful way to pass the time until the next official XTC release (rumored to be already underway).

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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