Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Soft Machine - Hidden Details (MoonJune Records, 2018)

Celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the legendary progressive rock / jazz fusion band Soft Machine, this version of the ever changing band includes John Etheridge on electric and acoustic guitars, Theo Travis on tenor and soprano saxophone, flutes and electric piano, Roy Babbington on bass guitar and John Marshall on drums and percussion. The music grabs your attention immediately with the opening "Hidden Details" which comes out rocking, combining volcanic guitar soloing and a heavy beat with pulsing electric bass, turning to overtly jazz fusion with strong saxophone at the beginning and the end. "The Man Who Waved at Trains" is mellower, with electric piano and elastic bass supporting a whimsical flute solo over muted rhythm, leading into "Ground Lift," which presents a spare fractured transmission from guitar, adding probing soprano saxophone, then louder jabs of percussion and guitar saxophone swirls and cries. "Heart Off Guard" is a short interlude for acoustic guitar, gentle soft and spare, adding sad and yearning soprano saxophone and segues into "Broken Hill" which has neon toned electric guitar, evoking a late night feeling with a subtle framing cymbal and a lonely sounding pastel toned electric piano providing echoes of cinematic noir. The rough and ready "One Glove" which creates a backbeat to power muscular guitar and saxophone, with solos that grind and shoots off sparks, an especially crunchy tenor saxophone solo digs deep, making for a potent combination. "Out Bloody Rageous Part 1" uses a subtle keyboard introduction, then the percussion, guitar and bass kick in and move through the familiar melody in a thoughtful manner, branching out with a sweeping improvisation led by soprano saxophone, nodding all the way back to the band's first album. Unaccompanied saxophone begins "Life on Bridges" providing a wistful theme with the band filling in and complementing the instrument, dark and ominous with a grittier sound, taking time to develop the tension then exploding in a shower of sparks. "Fourteen Hour Dream" develops a crisp rhythm and well articulated flute, allowing the music to have a spirited flight that draws from several wells, adding some subtle electronics to gently alter the sound, moving along with fast paced but not loud drumming, making way for a majestic electric guitar solo. To conclude, there is "Breathe" where Nick Utteridge joins the group on wind chimes, lending a fragile quality to droning piece of music that stretches out with soft flute adding to the exotic sensation, and finally "Night Sky" a bonus track of yearning flute and ambient electronics, allowing the music flows in waves. Hidden Details -

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