Ardent fans of the oft fabled British Canterbury school of progressive music should welcome this new release by a band whose sole recorded output resulted in two acclaimed 1972 recordings. Thus, the name “Matching Mole” was derived from the French translation of the great British band, “Soft Machine” (machine molle), although in 1971 drummer Robert Wyatt had left the group to record a solo album, which represents an event that ultimately spawned “Matching Mole”
With these newly unearthed recordings culled from a European tour, the musicians’ exhibit a willingness to take chances as they improvise atop pieces that emanated from their two studio-based LPs. And while the producers should be commended for their remastering and digital editing of the original tapes, the overall audio quality is satisfactory considering the circumstances. On works such as “Intro” and “Smoke Rings”, we are treated to electric bassist Bill MacCormick’s pumping lines, guitarist Phil Miller’s effective utilization of sustained notes, Wyatt’s rumbling tom fills and heated momentum, while electric pianist Dave McRae firms down the jazzy chords and whimsical, airy themes. They continue to pursue steamy undercurrents and richly lyrical – Canterbury style motifs on “Brandy As In Benj”. Here, the band melds harmonious statements with swiftly executed unison runs amid gobs of raw firepower. All that and much more, as Wyatt adds humor to “March Ides II”, thanks to his playfully deranged and electronically manipulated cackling and laughter. Overall, Smoke Signals boasts a potpourri of exuberant choruses, memorable themes and sprightly soloing. Hence, a welcome entry into the Canterbury/progressive rock legacy! Recommended.
AAJ - Phil Miller Interview
Personnel: Phil Miller; guitar: Bill MacCormick; bass: Dave McRae; electric piano: Robert Wyatt; drums & vocals