Keeping up with XTC since they ceased full-time operations has been a full-time job: the Fuzzy Warbles series alone requires hours – days – of dedication. And now there’s Powers. Originally a limited release in 2010 (when it sold out), this now sought-after album is reissued as a mid-price, limited-edition (500-only) jewel-cased CD, packaged in a trompe l’oeil library book style, featuring 12 pages of sleevenotes and illustrations by longtime Ape House sleeve artist Andrew Swainson. But what is it? Good question. It’s a sort of soundtrack to the paintings of one of Partridge’s favourite illustrators, Richard M Powers, an experimental tour de force, a series of sound pieces, fragments, bleeps and tintinnabulations. Basically, it’s a labour of love from the former science fiction-obsessed kid (space travel’s in his blood) turned purveyor of playful art-pop. Not that his XTC-ish urges are remotely evident. No, over 12 tracks (helpfully numbered I-XII) Powers finds Partridge channelling his inner musique concrete-ist. It variously sounds like toyshop instruments gone dub, noises picked up on a transmitter from a far-off galaxy, and the motion of a giant spacecraft – or what we thought was a giant space-craft, which actually turns out to be a humongous future-creature with a giant tongue and claws. Or that could just be your humble reviewer’s own warped childhood obsessions.
Expect quark, strangeness and no little charm.