248

Hugh Hopper Band: Meccano Pelorus

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Hugh Hopper Band: Meccano Pelorus '05 is shaping up to be a busy year for bassist Hugh Hopper, who first made a name for himself over 30 years ago as member of the British progressive/fusion band Soft Machine. He'll be touring and recording with Soft Machine Legacy, featuring guitarist John Etheridge, saxophonist Elton Dean and drummer John Marshall — all alumni from various incarnations of Soft Machine. He'll be playing some gigs with another off-shoot called Soft Bounds, featuring Dean, pianist Sophia Domancich and drummer Simon Goubert. And he'll be participating in a number of other endeavours, including the Songs from the Beginning Project and Clear Frame.

So it's an opportune time for Cuneiform Records to reissue a remastered version of Hopper's long out-of-print Meccano Pelorus, a live recording that features two versions of his Franglodutch band. It gives listeners a chance to reassess a band that, while not sharing the same kind of name recognition as Hopper's various "Softs associations, occupies its own space within the progressive/fusion continuum.

By the time Hopper came out of his self-inflicted retirement in the early '80s and this band was formed, his writing and playing had made significant leaps forward. These recordings — two pieces from the same '87 recording from which most of Alive! was culled, and four from an '89 performance of the group notable for French guitarist Patrice Meyer's involvement — find Hopper evolved into a suppler bassist, more capable of the loose interplay that defines this band. And while still possessed of an ability to capture a groove and navigate challenging charts, his sound has become clearer, more defined, even as he retains the deep, in-the-gut visceral quality that has always made him such a formidable presence.

His writing might centre itself around more complex and idiosyncratic concerns — like the opening "Wanglosaxon, which features a longish theme covering a variety of rhythmic territories — but there's also a looser playfulness at work here, with Hopper quoting The Beatles ("Day Tripper ) here, and Miles Davis ("All Blues ) elsewhere in the set. And while there are a lot of bass figures that define the compositions, once the solos kick in Hopper is far more liberated than he was in his Soft Machine days.

Hopper aside, everyone in the band is worthy of note; but Meyer stands out on the four tracks from the '89 show, consisting of four Hopper compositions including a more open-ended interpretation of "Miniluv from Hopper's first solo album, 1984. Meyer is clearly cut from the same cloth as Allan Holdsworth, with a similarly fluid legato style that incorporates staggering arpeggios, broad intervallic leaps and a language that comes more from jazz than rock; his solos are as exciting as they are cerebral.

Meccano Pelorus remains a vital document of Hopper's evolution into a more interactive player, a writer who combines riff-based, metrically-challenged concepts with greater freedom and interpretive sensibility. Fusion it may be, but there are actually times when this group swings, implying a broader musical understanding.

Visit Hugh Hopper and Cuneiform Records on the web.


Track Listing: Wanglosaxon; Spanish Knee; Meccano Pelorus; Miniluv; Seven for Lee; Springtime 85

Personnel: Hugh Hopper (bass), Frank Van Der Kooij (tenor and soprano saxophone), Dionys Berukers (keyboards), Pieter Bast (drums), Patrice Meyer (guitar on

Title: Meccano Pelorus | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Cuneiform Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Saluting Sgt. Pepper CD/LP/Track Review Saluting Sgt. Pepper
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Thick as Thieves CD/LP/Track Review Thick as Thieves
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Dream Within A Dream CD/LP/Track Review Dream Within A Dream
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Live At The High Noon CD/LP/Track Review Live At The High Noon
by Doug Collette
Published: June 22, 2017
Read As It Should Be: Ballads 2 CD/LP/Track Review As It Should Be: Ballads 2
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 21, 2017
Read Karoujite CD/LP/Track Review Karoujite
by John Eyles
Published: June 21, 2017
Read "Autumn Tales" CD/LP/Track Review Autumn Tales
by Chris Mosey
Published: June 20, 2017
Read "Expanding Heart" CD/LP/Track Review Expanding Heart
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: October 21, 2016
Read "Lookin' East" CD/LP/Track Review Lookin' East
by Jack Bowers
Published: April 22, 2017
Read "Quartet Plus, Volume 2" CD/LP/Track Review Quartet Plus, Volume 2
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 21, 2017
Read "The Space Between" CD/LP/Track Review The Space Between
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 22, 2016
Read "IIII+IIII" CD/LP/Track Review IIII+IIII
by James Nadal
Published: April 17, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.