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XTC / Nonsuch CD+Blu-ray review

FR

The 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who seems like a very appropriate day to review XTC‘s reissue of their 1992 album Nonsuch, because just like The Doctor’s TARDIS, this is one release that is very much bigger on the inside.

Physically, this is an unassuming four panel digi-pack within a card slipcase, but the modest proportions belie the scale of the musical (and video) content across the two discs.

The Nonsuch reissue has been released on Andy Patridge’s own APE label and it’s actually available in two formats, a CD+DVD-Audio combo or CD+Blu-ray. The second discs of both contain all the goodies and it’s quite impressive that they’ve bothered to offer a DVD-Audio version, given that it’s quite a niche format these days. That said, the CD+Blu-ray is the is the one to go for, because it offers everything on the DVD-Audio, plus a large amount of essential content that the reduced capacity of the DVD simply didn’t allow for.

Take a deep breath and get your head around what’s included on the CD+Blu-ray…

CD: 2013 new stereo REMIX of Nonsuch by Steven Wilson

Blu-ray:

  • Original stereo mix
  • An LCPM 5.1 Surround mix (24bit/96khz) mixed (by Steven Wilson, again) from the original multi-track tapes
  • 2013 new stereo mix – LPCM at 24/96 – with additional track Didn’t Hurt A Bit
  • Instrumental versions of the all the new remixes*
  • Andy Partridge home demos and Colin Moulding work tapes for songs written for the album and contemporaneously*
  • Filmed footage of the band working on the album in Chipping Norton Studios (48 minutes worth!)*
  • Promo films for The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead and The Disappointed*

*exclusive to Blu-ray

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XTC’s Nonsuch CD+Blu-ray

In short this is phenomenal. There are (a lot of) £100 box sets that cannot compete with the content on offer here and yet this CD and Blu-ray combo is available for less than £15! It’s no exaggeration to say that the content here could have been spread across seven discs (perhaps 5CDs+DVD+Blu-ray). Throw in a hardback book and many bands would be flogging a super deluxe edition on their online stores for three figures. It’s to APE’s great credit that they’ve not been seduced with pound signs in their eyes and have created something affordable, but truly excellent.

One noticeable change with this new edition on Nonsuch is the fact that the crossfades between songs have gone. According to Andy Partridge (commenting on his website’s forum) “We were persuaded to drop them by Steven Wilson and a few others”. It seems many fans are missing these, although it’s quite nice to be able to hear the songs properly, individually. Also, note that the CD contains the new stereo remix not the original mix, which can only be found on the Blu-ray. The instrumental versions are fun, in a singalong kind of a way, but it’s the hi-res 5.1 that makes this very special. It sounds amazing, a truly immersive experience.

“Andy’s Home Demos” are pretty comprehensive – you don’t just get a few tasters, rather 24 tracks. “Colin’s Work Tapes” offer eight embryonic versions including My Bird Performs and The Smartest Monkeys. The two videos are fine, but the fly-on-the-wall studio video footage is fascinating.

For XTC fans this release is heaven. Think of your favourite album and imagine it being released in this format? It’s what music obsessives dream of: hi-res, surround, demos, stereo remixes, instrumentals, behind-the-scenes video and more. For once a reissue ticks all the boxes and you’re not left frustrated by missed opportunities.

The good news is that this is the first in a series. “The Surround Sound Series” to be precise, so hopefully we can look forward to more of the same with other XTC releases.

The Nonsuch is out now.

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25 responses to XTC / Nonsuch CD+Blu-ray review

  1. Roby says:

    I listened it yesterday, its fantastic, I usally buy a few super deluxe edition since the very high price, but this one and the Waterboys clamshell are superb, great value for the price

  2. This is indeed a reference release for Blu Ray Audio. It puts Universal’s HFPA efforts to complete and utter shame.

  3. Matthew Best says:

    Fantastic release, the Blu-Ray audio is wonderful, and the bonus material is stellar. In the face of all that it seems churlish to criticise, but I would have liked to have read what Steven Wilson had to say about the album in the booklet which does feature interviews with all the other major players.

    Incidentally, I think it sounds better without the cross-fades, one or two of which I found quite jarring, but that’s another topic that’s totally missing from the booklet which is completely focussed on the original recording of the album, rather than on the remix and re-release which I for one would have been interested in hearing more about.

    Still, I’m looking forward intensely to the next in the series, which I understand will be Drums & Wires.

  4. David says:

    Will have to check it out, must admit not been on my radar before but if Mr. Wilson is involved it is surely worth a purchase.

  5. baward says:

    I’d better get collecting, or this series is going to cost me a fortune! :-)

  6. Paul Kent says:

    Great review, Paul. Thanks. It’s on my Christmas list, so I’ll have to wait until Christmas Day to hear it! I’m fine with the cross fades being removed, to be honest – the one between “The Disappointed” and “Holly Up On Poppy” is very jarring. But will this be the same with future releases? Imagine “Black Sea”, “The Big Express” and “Skylarking” without cross fades! Mind you, if, like this release, original mixes are included, that’ll do fine. I’ll just keep hold of my 2001 remasters, too.

  7. Richie says:

    I`ve nothing but praise for this edition. What I would like to know is this, does Steven Wilson get any sleep? The guy is a workaholic and anything he puts his hands to is quality.

  8. Herr Angela Merkel says:

    Haven’t listened to the 5.1 yet, but the new stereo-mix is rather boring and dull sounding. Ergo, not everything touched by the overly praised Mr Wilson is actually wonderful.

  9. Matthew Best says:

    I am surprised – I find the new stereo mix to be rather wonderful and an improvement over the original.

  10. Veesoo says:

    The blu ray sound is truly beautiful… and I wouldn’t say boring, but I’m so used to the original Nick Davis mix that I also missed that “punch in your face” wall of sound, specially on Andy’s songs…

  11. Mortimerman says:

    Great review! Spot on! Just received my this week and have listened to everything 3 times. Nothing short of spectacular. After hearing the brilliance of XTC’s music remixed by Steven Wilson, one can only imagine what album to expect next from the bands canon of work. I wish for no particular album to be done next. Any title will do now that I have heard ‘Nonsuch’ in 5.1. Kudos to Apesuch for the elegant but economical package. So worth the minimal cost. Long live XTC.

  12. william says:

    Can you only imagine what Steve will do with the eventual Porcupine tree remasters given this and the King Crimson box’s…..

  13. Justin Campbell says:

    This is a lovely release but I have been unable to get the 5.1 DTS sound working on my sony sacd player )o:

  14. Justin says:

    The 5.1 mix is brilliant, and I cannot wait for the next instalments in the series.
    I have problems with my blu-ray disc, in that the selector highlight icon doesn’t work in any menu. I’ve emailed Burning Shed about a solution….see what happens.
    Otherwise, as a longtime XTC fan, I’m ecstatic about the content and the sound. Quality all round.

  15. Matthew Best says:

    @Justin Campbell. I don’t think either a DVD-A or a Blu-Ray will play in an SACD player. That would explain why you can’t get it to work.

  16. Neil Wilkes says:

    @Justins (both)
    Please get in touch with me directly & I will help you get this sorted out.

  17. Neil Wilkes says:

    Sorry.
    Just noticed that email addresses are not published.
    Burning shed will pass all problems to me so I will get back to you both ASAP.

  18. Chris says:

    I tweeted Andy to congratulate him on offering such an exceptional package for great price – he replied he needs to sell 15,000 to break even. He could have packaged it up at several times the price and sold it to hardcore fans but again he’s put (access to) art before commerce. Story of his musical life. So dig deep and buy a copy!

  19. Ben Mills in Colorado says:

    I just areceived this 2 days ago and it is, as others have stated, perfect. XTC has long been my favorite band, ever since I heard. Making. Plans on a Denver FM station way back when.
    XTC has always been more than willing to pull back the curtain to reveal their creative process.

    I can’t help but think that this is the type of release we’d like to see the Beatles produce for each album.

    • DaveM says:

      Until remixed for US sale, the Beatles concentrated only on mono. Unless I’m proven wrong by someone more enlightened, I don’t think the Beatle master tapes would allow a 5.1 treatment.

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