on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2021 6 Okt

Modern masterpieces in surround: XTC‘s „Skylarking“

von: Michael Engelbrecht Filed under: Blog | TB | Tags: , , Comments off

For Mark Smotroff from „audiophile review“, and Mike from „Life in Surround“. Mike, I love your passionate reviews on youtube, you even made me buy the big „Dobbie Brothers in Quad“. And Mark, your enthisiasm  made me keen on Tomita‘s „Firebird“. I should have known better. Really terribly overblown stuff, both! But quite often, I agree with you. These days  I can even enjoy the 5:1-version of the Yes double album „Tales from Topographic Oceans“ without someone putting a gun to my face!

For starters: Side two (or song eight onwards for you digital kids) effectively reverts to type with sharp observations on being penniless, the pitfalls of marriage (Big Day), difficult romances, religion and death – hardly the stuff that music critics, pluggers and your average Joe and Joan wanted to hear around the campfire in the mid-’80s. Moulding’s Dying is possibly one of the bassist’s most personal songs, based on a true story, a real-life letterbox-format kitchen-sink drama that says a lot in its minimal two and a half minutes. As the expansive songwriter’s sleeve-notes explain, Moulding „likes writing about smallness“.



Some interesting things are just going to happen in my life, some fine, some not really, but every reader of this blog knows, I‘m keeping my private life strictly private. One of the things I like to frankly speak about, is the wonder healing of my electric cave. There seemed to be a severe damage in one or two of the loudspeakers, or even in the power station, but then again, and somehow over night, everything turned out fine, and into the best performance ever of my machinery.


Yesterday was final proof: I put on Steven Wilson‘s surround version of XTC‘s album „Skylarking“. Sitting in the „sweet spot“, and with no one  around, I could share this experience, I started the album with its bucolic sounds of nature, and then, one song after the other simply elevated me, literally, yogi-style. Forget Transcendental Meditation! I did a fabulous selfie, but I won’t give it away even when it looks so nice, too private, too disturbing anyway  for the uninitiated: me, scantily clad in a black kimono, ten (!) inches above a petrol coloured chaiselongue, oh, god! With all the endorphines floating, there’s something deep going on, existential matter all around, this is no entertainment, no nice killing of time at all, folks. This just keeps lingering on and on and on, oh me oh my. 


The albums of XTC and King Crimson must have waited decades to come to full blossom. This is not common opinion, but we who love 5:1 mixes cannot exaggerate the joys of listening to these works once coined „progressive rock“ in a way that places us mid-stage and inside a stellar mix that is true to the original, but offers unexpected levels of transparency and immersion. „Skylarking“ is such a fantastic album, and on par with my favourite XTC-In-Surround works, like „Drums and Wires“ and, how‘s the one called with the song „Towers of London“ … „Black Sea“, yes!  And to make this not a party for the happy few, Mr. Wilson‘s stereo mix is brilliant, too.


I can very well imagine how it may feel to make a journey to outer space and back, the new touristic thrill of the Bezos and Bransons of this world, but I would kindly  turn down the offer when paying the price would be, well, never being allowed again to fly away, away, and away with „Skylarking“ in surround.


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