Dukes of the Stratosphere - Psurroundabout RidePhasing and flanging in and out of existence in 1985 and 1987, the Dukes of Stratosphear were the flower power band formed by the same members of the well-known new wave group XTC. Now there is no need to drop a hit or eat some mushrooms, instead just position yourself in the sweet spot in your surround listening room, power up and play the Blu-ray

Phasing and flanging in and out of existence in 1985 and 1987, the Dukes of Stratosphear were the flower power band formed by the same members of the well-known new wave group XTC. Now there is no need to drop a hit or eat some mushrooms, instead just position yourself in the sweet spot in your surround listening room, power up and play the Blu-ray featuring all new stereo and 5.1 mixes of the bands two studio albums. This 2019 deluxe CD + all region Blu-ray edition has been remixed by Steven Wilson and presents the music of XTC's Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding, and Dave Gregory masquerading as a psychedelic 60’s band called the “Dukes of Stratosphear.”

The band released their debut mini-album “25 O’clock” in 1985, and two years later followed it up with the album “Psonic Psunspot.” This set compiles both albums plus two extra tracks mixed in 5.1 surround by Steven Wilson, with a final song up-mixed to surround using the Penteo audio system. All 19 songs appear in their original mixes in hi-res stereo on the Blu-ray, while 18 songs appear in their new mixes in hi-res stereo. The Blu-ray also contains complete demos from both albums and instrumental versions of the album songs in hi-res stereo.

Really now, is this actually Steven Wilson mixing this release? For those who have been accustomed to his style over the years will be utterly surprised with this aggressively discreet and somewhat unorthodox mix from the surround guru. Me, on the other hand welcome it with an absolute sonic delight! As the title track from their 25 O’clock EP opens with the first tick tock clock segment starting from the right front channel and responding in the back left channel additional parts swell from around the room and vocals sore from the center channel. The mix has taken on the ‘70s era style of quad as the drums migrate from the front quickly heading to the right rear channel while the bass moves behind the sweet spot, only to return back up front later in the song. Double guitars riff in from the front while swelling guitars and keyboards are position in the back channels. This is by far one of the most aggressive surround mixes I have heard Wilson due to date.

After the initial frenetic movement of parts around the soundstage on the opening track, Wilson reverts back to his more common style on the next track “Bike Ride to the Moon.” I rather enjoy how the surround mix opens up the psychedelic nature of these songs, allowing them to spread across the soundstage, in turn providing greater detail to each of the many parts. I dig how the snare rifles across the front channels and pronounced vocals emanate from the center speaker. Guitars soar from the front to rears as effects driven parts roll in and out in the back channels.

Taking a listen to both the DTS Master Audio and the LPCM 96kHz / 24-bit codecs yield no discernible difference. From a useability standpoint, I found it a little odd that the placement of the audio set up is just below the 5.1 Surround menu link. However, since it only offers the two surround options, the remaining menu items on the home screen provide direct access to the stereo LPCM version of the new 2019 mix as well as the original mix and alternate versions. I point this out only because I think it may be easy for listeners to miss this additional option for the 5.1 mixes, as I know I initially did when I first received this Deluxe Edition.

Continuing along an aggressive sonic deluge, “What in the World??...” adds backing vocals in the rear channels and guitar riffs that swirl around the room bringing incredible aural life to this track. I can certainly say that the overall sonic have been immensely improved from the vinyl copy I have on hand, with a fullness given to the lows and a pure sparkle in the upper regions. The transformation into the 5.1 realm allows for superb dynamics to be heard, and channel separation is obviously excellent in the digital world.

Moving into their second release, the full length album Psonic Psunspot, the band takes on a more 60’s pop feel, especially on the opening track “Vanishing Girl.” Likewise, Wilson has created a straight-forward mix with drums and bass up front, vocals once again joyfully singing in the center speaker while the acoustic rhythm guitar stridently plays in the front right. Additional guitars jangling in the back left and additional vocals echo in the back right.

I have felt immersed throughout the songs strewn across the EP and LP, making Psurroundabout Ride one of the most enjoyable 5.1 mixes in my collection. The transparency makes for unparalleled listening, especially on the LP tracks that tend to be more front centric. “Collideascope” primarily uses the back channels for effects driven elements, while the subsequent track “You're My Drug” fires from all corners, truly encompassing the listener. A big thumbs up to the bonus track “Black Jewelled Serpent of Sound” which not only makes excellent use of dynamics, but also is another great selection for immersionists.

For high resolution stereophiles, the new LPCM 96kHz / 24-bit stereo mix is a vast improvement over the original stereo mix. From a minor decrease in the bloated bass guitar to tonal balancing of guitars, vocals and drums, the Wilson mix blends everything together without parts fighting one another. There is no compelling reason to compare the surround to the stereo mixes, as they are vastly different in their nature. However, for two channel enthusiasts, the new mix takes the collection of songs by the Dukes of Stratosphear and gives them an entirely new life that is both revealing and significantly easier on the ears to listen to. I noticed some harshness and brittleness as parts fought to stand out when listening to the original stereo mixes, and I can definitively say that I will stick with the Wilson remixes from now on.

Fans will also find an instrumental stereo mix, along with a menu full of extras, featuring demos and alternate versions. The complete package nearly perfectly assembles the bands entire output. What is missing for cover art fans like myself, is the original artwork from the EP and LP. The new graphics for the Surroundabout Ride collection are cool, but I still miss the incredible creativity of the 25 O’clock artwork, I guess I will be holding onto my vinyl edition!

A must have for surround sound enthusiasts, collectors of psychedelic rock, and XTC completists. Followers of Wilson’s remixes and stereophiles seeking the best version of the band’s two fantastic album bundled together here are also advised to grab their copy before it goes out of print.

featuring all new stereo and 5.1 mixes of the bands two studio albums. This 2019 deluxe CD + all region Blu-ray edition has been remixed by Steven Wilson and presents the music of XTC's Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding, and Dave Gregory masquerading as a psychedelic 60’s band called “The Dukes of Stratosphear.”

The band released their debut mini-album “25 O’clock” in 1985, and two years later followed it up with the album “Psonic Psunspot.” This set compiles both albums plus two extra tracks mixed in 5.1 surround by Steven Wilson, with a final song up-mixed to surround using the Penteo audio system. All 19 songs appear in their original mixes in hi-res stereo on the Blu-ray, while 18 songs appear in their new mixes in hi-res stereo. The Blu-ray also contains complete demos from both albums and instrumental versions of the album songs in hi-res stereo.

Released October 11, 2019

 

 Format Info

1 CD + 1 Blu-ray deluxe edition with all new stereo and 5.1 mixes by Steven Wilson.  DTS MA and LPCM 5.1 96kHz / 24-bit, LPCM 96kHz / 24-bit stereo.

 

 

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