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THE SOFT MACHINE

The Soft Machine

 

Canterbury Scene

4.08 | 363 ratings

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febus
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
5 stars THE BIRTH OF THE CANTERBURY SOUND.

It all started here! Among the new underground scene coming out of London around 1967/1968, 2 bands emerged as the kings of this new psychedelia/avant garde music where they were no boundaries, no restrictions on how to play your instruments or compose songs; The old rules were trashed and new sounds, weird sounds for a lot of people, new musical horizons were opened and explored. The names of those 2 bands were PINK FLOYD and SOFT MACHINE.

Even if SOFT MACHINE remains to this day the biggest name and most successful act from the CANTERBURY scene, they didn't follow exactly the same successful commercial path than PINK FLOYD and never became a mainstream big name as WATERS and co. The main reasons for that was their uncompromising stand with the music they wanted to play , their ever-changing line-up from one album to another resulting in sudden shifts of music style that left quite a few of their early fans scratching their perplexed heads.

But at this time around 1968 to 1971, SOFT MACHINE was a huge name in the burgeonning prog movement. It's just too bad than through the next decades, the reputation of this band waned from a big caliber name to just another Canterbury name. I checked on PA some polls and discussions about them. Nothing big enough to crash the server of this site.

That's sad because they were one of the most unique and innovative bands of the prog movement, creating the Canterbury school or sound.They were never duplicated because it was unpossible to sound like them. Even SOFT MACHINE couldn't duplicate themselves as their sound was always changing and going some other places, no one has ever been. The only comparison with them i can think of is FRANK ZAPPA and the MOTHERS OF INVENTION, not necessarily musically but in their own way to create their own music mixing serious avant garde sounds with psychedelic jazzy jams, silly vocals and...a lot of talent!

SOFT MACHINE started as a quartet featuring MIKE RATLEDGE on keyboards, mainly organ, KEVIN AYERS on bass and vocals , ROBERT WYATT on drums and vocals and the Aussie DAEVID ALLEN of future GONG fame on guitar. Worth noticing that the next bassist of SOFT MACHINE HUGH HOPPER was already around as a.....roadie and ...songwriter! This line-up would record plenty of demos and songs that would be released only a few years later under the JET PROPELLED PHOTOGRAPH which could be considered as a real first SOFT MACHINE album, but legally THE SOFT MACHINE is the first one. Also, this album would be named later on VOLUME ONE on some editions as their next album will be named VOL.2.

By the time this album was recorded, DAEVID ALLEN was out of the band because he was not allowed an entry visa in Britain from France where he was living back then.This is like that history is being made as DAEVID would form GONG later in France. KEVIN AYERS would take over the occasional guitar parts, but they weren't many anyway!

Even if you find some kind of classic strong structures on this album,it has to be heard as a whole piece of music with freaky interludes bridging all parts.This is a wild experience and a trippy journey through fuzz-box distortion, strange off key organ sounding, maniacal great drumming, a rumbling heavy groovy bass and unique vocals from ROBERT WYATT and KEVIN AYERS.No one in the world sings like ROBERT WYATT! there is only one RW. One can say his voice is an instrument by itself as it helps the album and the subsequent SOFT MACHINE releases to sound like no one else.

This is a raw album full of energy and new twists at every corner. This is not jazz, this is not rock, this not contemporary music, this is only SOFT MACHINE. A mad mixture of everything and raged psychedelism cooked by some crazy wizard. I won't go into details, track by track as i said earlier, this album has to be listened as a whole. There are even sweet songs such as the beautiful HUGH HOPPER penned A CERTAIN KIND, in the style of CAROLINE from WYATT'MATCHING MOLE. You have the ''hits'' from KEVIN AYERS singing with his strong baritone voice WE DID IT AGAIN and WHY ARE WE SLEEPING which are still played by KEVIN on stage nowadays.What a contrast with the very delicate sounding voice of ROBERT WYATT.But IT IS the overall sound madness that prevails with no time to take a breath!

It was a very important album back then along the next VOL2 and FLOYD's PIPERS AT THE GATE and SAUCERFUL OF SECRETS.They wouldl launch the experimental prog movement starting with KCRIMSON and Krautrock next. They told other and future musicians you can dare, you are not obligated to follow the verses/chorus rules, be yourself, be like a mad scientist , not be always serious, have fun , explore new musical horizons and create.

SOFT MACHINE would produce a few more masterpieces starting with the next one and THIRD before becoming too serious and losing their freshness....and some fans. But i guess that's the price TO PAY when you stay true to yourself and don't compromise in the name of money and they didn't, thanks to them. 4 stars for the music and one more star because it's where it all began!!

5 STARS.

febus | 5/5 |

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