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Isotope: Golden Section

Andrey Henkin By

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It is with great sadness that the recent passing of electric bassist Hugh Hopper (1945-2009), one of the most original stylists on his instrument, is mourned.

Hopper is best known for his tenure in Soft Machine (part of the Canterbury scene, lumped in with progressive rockers like King Crimson and Frank Zappa, and part of the British jazz fusion world) from 1968-72, as well as later tributes such as Soft Bounds, Softworks and Soft Machine Legacy. But Hopper and his fuzz bass can also be found on a number of solo albums, including a personal favorite, Hoppertunity Box (Cuneiform, 1976). He can also be heard on sessions with former Soft Machine drummer Robert Wyatt and percussionist Stomu Yamash'ta, and is featured prominently in the fusion band Isotope.

Isotope began its life in 1973 with guitarist Gary Boyle, drummer Nigel Morris, bassist Jeff Clyne and keyboardist Brian Miller. For one album from late 1974, Hugh Hopper and Laurence Scott replaced Clyne and Miller respectively, before giving way to other deps for the rest of the band's short life. Cuneiform Records, always pulling out fascinating live documents from a wide array of British aggregates (including several Soft Machine discs), doubles the output of this short-lived Isotope lineup with Golden Section.

The album is compiled from several sessions: the first six tracks part of a concert from Post-Aula in Bremen, Germany in 1975 (adding percussionist Aureo de Souza); the next pair from a Spring 1975 New York studio date and the final five waxed in London in July 1974.

As with Soft Machine, all the musicians contribute material, though Boyle (unfairly, not part of the Guitar God pantheon) is the primary songwriter. Hopper fans will recognize such memorable themes as "Lily Kong" and the title track, both of which would later appear on his 1979 solo disc, Monster Band (Atmposphere).

The sound on the album ranges from good to perfect, and Hopper is in usual fine form. Isotope and colleague bands like Nucleus were still making compelling fusion documents by the time their American counterparts were already caricatures.

Track Listing: Illusion; Rangoon Creeper; Attila; Spanish Sun; Crunch Cake; Mr. M's Picture; Frog; Attila; Spanish Sun; Lily Kong; Edorian; Golden Section; Illusion.

Personnel: Gary Boyle: guitar; Laurence Scott: keyboards; Hugh Hopper: bass; Nigel Morris: drums; Aureo de Souza: percussion (1-6).

Title: Golden Section | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Cuneiform Records


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