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Hugh Hopper: The Gift of Purpose

Mark Redlefsen By

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Posthumously released under the name of late ex-Soft Machine/Soft Machine Legacy bassist Hugh Hopper, The Gift of Purpose captures a live studio performance from early 2008, featuring a trio project called Bone, along with guitarist Nick Didkovsky and drummer John Roulat. Rreleased as a benefit for Hopper's family—to which all proceeds of the sale of the disc will go—it serves as one last look back upon the playing, and compositional skills of this highly influential artist.

The music leans more towards the heavier side of the rock spectrum. The sound has more in common with the likes of 1990's groups such as Tool or Helmet, as opposed to Soft Machine, Isotope or any other past Hopper projects. Hopper's unique, heavy-bottom bass sound melds well with Didkovsky's metallic guitar riffs and Roulat's powerful drum beats. The thick, loud playing creates dense textures that build up and eventually give way to more subtle passages. Aside from some lighter chordal patterns that occur on short songs like "Green Dansette," there are longer pieces, like the aptly titled "Improvisation," where the three dig into their bag of experimental chops.

The added bonus title track was recorded in tribute to Hopper, after his passing in June, 2009. The most significant of the three additional players joining the remaining Bone members here is former Soft Machine/Gong vocalist Daevid Allen. Allen, an old friend and colleague of Hopper's, takes their history full circle as he sings with his brand of trippy lyrics and spacey whispering vocals over a swirl storm of cloudy guitar chords and saxophone for fifteen minutes.

The Gift of Purpose will most likely not be set alongside the Softs' Third (Columbia, 1970) and the bassist's own Hopper Tunity Box (Cuneiform, 1977), in the final analysis of Hopper's work. It will, however, serve as a welcome and unexpected aural snapshot of the very active, diverse, and fertile final chapter of this beloved musician's life.

Track Listing: Big Bombay; Foster Wives, Trophy Hair; Banter; Green Dansette; Improvisation; Overlife Part 2; We'll Ask the Questions Around Here, Part 2; The Gift of Purpose.

Personnel: Hugh Hopper: electric bass (1-7); Nick Didkovsky: electric guitar, full-steam lyrical filtrage (8); John Roulat: drums; Daevid Allen: full-breasted vocals, thanks be to the air (8); Yves Duboin: soprano sax (8); Colin Marston: Warr guitar (8).

Title: The Gift Of Purpose | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Cuneiform Records

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