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The Soft Machine - Hidden Details CD (album) cover

HIDDEN DETAILS

The Soft Machine

 

Canterbury Scene

3.94 | 25 ratings

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AZF
4 stars How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Soft Machine

Never thought it would happen again but here we are. 18 years into the 21st Century and look at that! Brand new Soft Machine! Firstly, you probably already know, but this is an album best played on a stereo system as opposed to speakers on a Tablet or PC! Streamed and even on YouTube it sounds like they were recorded in a shed, while the CD sounds a lot more produced and mixed. Some parts nostalgia reviving, some parts brand new diversions. As expected the musicianship is on point. Age has not weakened the drumming of Britain's Most Overlooked Drummer John Marshall. John Etheridge still has it. And Classic Soft Machine wah pedals get dusted off and stepped on again. It is the most fun Soft Machine album for some time. True, there's no lyrical oddness like Volume Two. But there's a spirit of freedom in the playing. Nobody to be excluded (Well as !omg as they understand it's instrumental music) and no contemporaries left to challenge. It doesn't sound like the end piece. Whereas The Endless River seem to descend from the skies for a final victory lap. "Hidden Details" seems to wake from it's sleep and get off the pavement to march forward. The Soft Machine are back! And it's as if (SeewhatIdidthere?) they've never really been away. When does a band stop being a band? Soft Machine long had those accusations brushed off. I did used to be a Wyatt purist and it took me a while but I now except it all as Soft Machine. ("Rubber Riff" excepted because... Yeah...) And while other modern albums by Prog bands have felt like the curtain is closing, "Hidden Details" sounds like a band woken up from a hibernation. New Zookeeper, Theo Travis, has nurtured these endangered mammoths of UK music and at the end of it you'll be begging for more. A final collaboration with Robert Wyatt seems like an impossible dream. But then if you were told in 2018 Soft Machine would be back with an album just as good as their mid-70's prime? Well who would believe that!

"Hidden Details" doesn't let the side down. If any criticism I would have preferred less reworkings of Machine standards. There's enough confidence in this album to show there's still enough life left in the band. A pleasant listening experience guaranteed.

AZF | 4/5 |

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