281

Soft Machine: Grides

Nic Jones By

Sign in to view read count
Soft Machine: Grides Any notion of a golden age should always be treated with the utmost scepticism, but the more time passes, the clearer it becomes that the decade from 1965 to 1975 witnessed perhaps the last great step in the evolution of jazz and its relationship with other musical forms. Jazz-rock fusion was destined to peter out in a slew of bland self-indulgence by the end of the 1970s, but for a few years the form was ripe with potential, and this latest installment in the reclamation of Soft Machine adds another brick to what is becoming a figurative wall.

The Softs lineup of Dean/Ratledge/Hopper/Wyatt is reckoned by insiders to be the definitive one, and on the evidence here, there's a lot of substance in that reckoning.

The two sets captured on the CD document them doing a thing so inimitable that once this lineup changed, the dynamics of the music seemed to undergo a negative shift. There's an almost palpable sense of something happening on the likes of Ratledge's "Slightly All The Time," where Hopper takes full advantage of the roving commission his bass was afforded, and the elasticity of Wyatt's time has the effect of subdividing the beat, making for a lack of emphasis where drummers of less wit and grace would simply have floundered. When these factors are considered alongside the kind of plugged-in pastoralism found on Hopper's "Virtually," it becomes clear that this was profoundly a group music and not the kind of thing fashioned to provide a context for virtuoso (but ultimately anonymous) soloing.

Both the equilibrium and the very individuality of the music is cemented in no small part by Ratledge's use of a Lowry organ, the sound of which differs markedly from the more common Hammond. The same is true of Hopper's use of fuzz, which has the effect of transforming his bass into a supplementary lead instrument. Elton Dean might well have been the ideal reed player for the group. As it is, his acerbic lines are often carried along by a rhythmic momentum the likes of which has arguably never been replicated by any other European band.

The DVD which comes with the CD in this package captures a performance recorded for Radio Bremen in Germany, happily featuring the same lineup. Here, perhaps, the importance of almost free improvisation and atonality in the group's music is more obvious, comparatively speaking. The psychedelic backdrop behind the band might have some effect on sensitive retinas, but it does, however, emphasise the nature of the times.

Overall this is seminal documentation of a band in its prime.


Track Listing: CD: Facelift; Virtually; Out-Bloody-Rageous; Neo-Caliban Grides; Teeth; Slightly All The Time; Eamonn Andrews; Esther's Nose Job. DVD: Neo-Caliban Grides; Out-Bloody-Rageous; Robert Wyatt's Vocal Improvisation; Eamonn Andrews; All White.

Personnel: Elton Dean: alto saxophone, saxello, electric piano; Mike Ratledge: electric piano, organ; Hugh Hopper: bass; Robert Wyatt: drums, vocals.

Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Cuneiform Records | Style: Fusion/Progressive Rock


Shop

More Articles

Read Northern Adventures CD/LP/Track Review Northern Adventures
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 28, 2017
Read Collider CD/LP/Track Review Collider
by John Sharpe
Published: February 28, 2017
Read Eos CD/LP/Track Review Eos
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 28, 2017
Read More Than This CD/LP/Track Review More Than This
by Henning Bolte
Published: February 28, 2017
Read Road to Forever CD/LP/Track Review Road to Forever
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Avenida Graham CD/LP/Track Review Avenida Graham
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 27, 2017
Read "Calm" CD/LP/Track Review Calm
by Edward Blanco
Published: May 25, 2016
Read "Meditations on Freedom" CD/LP/Track Review Meditations on Freedom
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: January 16, 2017
Read "Time Out" CD/LP/Track Review Time Out
by Sacha O'Grady
Published: July 9, 2016
Read "Live at the Stone: Megaloprepus Caerulatus" CD/LP/Track Review Live at the Stone: Megaloprepus Caerulatus
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 2, 2017
Read "Petal" CD/LP/Track Review Petal
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: May 6, 2016
Read "Proximity" CD/LP/Track Review Proximity
by Budd Kopman
Published: November 7, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!