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Matching Mole - On The Radio CD (album) cover

ON THE RADIO

Matching Mole

 

Canterbury Scene

3.55 | 11 ratings

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Syzygy
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Matching Mole existed for just 11 months in 1972, and released two strong and fondly remembered studio albums before going their seperate ways. Over the last decade there has been a steady trickle of live archive material released, and this is the best of them to date. Robert Wyatt, who designed the cover and selected the running order, thinks it's the album which best captures the sprirt of Matching Mole. Bill MacCormick, who wrote the detailed sleeve notes, agrees with him. Some of the tracks have been issued previously as BBC Radio 1 Live in Concert, and the remainder come from the three sessions recorded for John Peel's Radio 1 show. As on the other archive releases, most of the pieces are instrumental except for Wyatt's wordless vocals on Instant Pussy and Immediate Kitten, and there's a fair amount of improvisation throughout.

The real treat for fans comes at the beginning; a 20 minute, 3 track medley recorded in pristine stereo (the remainder of the CD, while mostly of good quality, is in mono). This showcases just how powerful Matching Mole could be, with Dave MacRae creating beautiful sounds with his modified Fender Rhodes piano, Phil Miller playing searing lead guitar and Robert Wyatt taking a brief solo that is a poignant reminder of his remarkable drumming. Bill MacCormick had only been playing bass for 18 months or so at the time, but is never less than solid and occasionally sounds inspired. The contrast with the studio versions of these pieces, especially those from Little Red Record, is amazing. Legend has long had it that Phil Miller was highly intimidated by the presence of Robert Fripp at the LRR sessions and his playing suffered as a result; these recordings prove it. Elsewhere on the album Part of the Dance and Immediate Kitten feature the 5 piece line up with Dave Sinclair on organ, the only live recordings to do so (on the first album MacCrae was listed as a guest musician and Sinclair as the 'official' keyboard player, but he left shortly after it was completed). Another of the sessions features an interesting instrumental version of Kevin Ayer's No 'alf Measures, which also cropped up in their live sets. On the downside, no less than 4 tracks appear twice in different versions; Instant Pussy, Marchides, Part of the Dance and Lything and Gracing. While there are significant differences in the way that the pieces are interpreted, that is rather a lot of repetition for a single CD.

As good as this collection is, it's really one for the fans. It's the best of the various archive releases, both in terms of sound quality and for showing different incarnations of the band at different stages in their brief lifespan. It also offers an alternate view of much of Little Red Record; most of the pieces appear here as works in progress, which gives an insight in to how the bad evolved. Newcomers should check out the studio albums first, while established fans will treasure most of this and will forgive its occasional shortcomings. Well worth investigating.

Syzygy | 3/5 |

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