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Matching Mole - Little Red Record CD (album) cover

LITTLE RED RECORD

Matching Mole

 

Canterbury Scene

3.92 | 204 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
5 stars Welcome to Chairman Mao's Canterbury Kraut experience!

The early 70s was a tumultuous time for Robert Wyatt who in just a few short years went from performing in the prime years of Soft Machine to undergoing the tragic accident which left him paralyzed from the waist down but in between these two extremes he generated some of his most ambitious works in a short 11 month timespan from October 1971 to September 1972 in his own whacky Canterbury creation MATCHING MOLE which is perhaps the most experimental and adventurous phase of his entire career. While the eponymous debut album was essentially a solo album allowing Wyatt to exercise complete control over every single aspect of the project, he discovered that he needed a little guidance from his friends who were now his bandmates so the floodgates were opened and the creative juices flowed on overdrive.

This all-star cast which included Caravan keyboardist David Sinclair, Phil Miller of Carol Crimes and Delivery, Bill MacCormick of Quiet Sun and supplemental New Zealand born keyboardist Dave MacRae were instrumental in keeping Wyatt focused and allowing the first album to come to fruition. After Wyatt realized his ideas were better with the contributions of other members, on the second installation of the MATCHING MOLE universe the democratic process was allowed to flourish with the entire band participating and in the process giving the album a much larger and more diverse overall span of ideas than the debut. Sinclair opted to skip a reprise and get back to Caravan but MacRae was more than willing to take over and jumped into the driver's seat with his distinctive Fender Rhodes sound and after many years Wyatt admitted that he was the first choice in the first place as he had been quite impressed with MacRae's adaptable stylistic approaches in the Buddy Rich Band as well as with Ian Carr's Nucleus.

LITTLE RED RECORD's title referred to Chairman Mao's "Little Red Book" published in 1964 with an album cover that mocked the posters that were created during the Chinese Cultural Revolution but the music is for the most part far from a political revolutionary take on the world's politics but rather an experimental mix of much of what had been gestating in the early years of the prog rock scene. In many ways MATCHING MOLE began the classic Canterbury jazz sounds that have become that indescribable jazz-rock sound that binds this nebulous sub-genre into its own category, however on LITTLE RED RECORD the jazz-rock elements are fortified with long experimental psychedelic sequences more reminiscent of the transcendental Krautrock bands from Germany such as the hypnotic bass grooves of Amon Duul II as well as the escape-the-gravitational-pull-of-the-planet trippiness of Can.

Add some avant-prog angularities and LITTLE RED RECORD stands out as one of the early 70s most creative slices of prog tucked away into the Canterbury corner. Also making this album a bit larger than life is the inclusion of King Crimson's Robert Fripp as producer as well as a cameo appearance by Brian Eno who adds some synthesizer wizardry on the album's mega-tripper, the anti- gravity generating "Gloria Gloom." Ruby Crystal, a pseudonym for the British actress Julie Christie also adds some vocals on "Nan True's Hole" which is obviously a nod to Gong's stellar space whisperer Gilli Smyth. All of these players conspired to take MATCHING MOLE beyond the established limits of both rock and jazz and created a veritable smorgasbord of compositional mastery with the embellished improvisation in perfect psychedelic splendor. The album begins with all the whimsical no nonsense humor one could hope for with the opening "Starting in the Middle of the Day We Can Drink Our Politics Away" with a hypnotic vocal performance and repetitive keyboard arpeggios before breaking into the heavy jazz-rocking antics performed on "Marchides" which finds some groovy fuzzy psych guitar riffs, bombastic drumming fury and nice jazzy chord progressions that add a touch of Daevid Allen inspired vocal rants. The extended play finds a nice groovy bass line in looped action with the keys, guitars and drums adding heavenly variations. The tracks blend together seamlessly as it cedes to "Nan True's Hole" displays a nice bass groove, fuzz guitar and female conversations tucked beneath. "Righteous Rhumba" is the most Gong sounding track on the album that adopts the Daevid Allen vocal rants of Gong and superimposes them over the Phil Miller guitar riffs and Wyatt drumming wizardry. "Brandy As In Benj" follows suit.

One of the highlights of the album is the lengthy 8 minute "Gloria Gloom" which is the only track to actually critique Wyatt's reflections on socialism but also takes the world of Canterbury jazz into a more German sounding psychedelic haze of Krautrock. Unlike the majority of the album's tracks that entertain that warm and fuzzy feel that Canterbury Scene elements evoke, this begins as a cold industrial suffocating cloud but after some conversational dialogue the track evolves into a variable jazz-fusion powerhouse that deftly finds the familiar Canterbury sounds trading off with the frigid progressive electronic and Krautrock soundscapes that punctuate the album's run. "God Song" is a tender prognosticator of Wyatt's future solo works beginning with his heart wrenching "Rock Bottom." Both the final two tracks "Flora Flight" and "Smoke Signal" tackle more technically infused Canterbury jazz-rock chops that showcase the band's excellent instrumental interplay.

This one seems to divide the prog world between those who prefer a more straight forward approach and those who love the wild and unrestrained experimental boldness. I fall into the latter as i find this album would sound a little sterile if it weren't for the explorative nature of Krautish escapist portals and extended instrumental improvisations. This is a well balanced album in those regards as things are never allowed to steal the show for an over extended amount of time. Unfortunately MATCHING MOLE was never to record a third album. The band broke up in September 1972 after a tour with Soft Machine as Miller joined Sinclair in forming Hatfield and the North and although Wyatt reformed the band which consisted of MacCormick, ex-Curved Air keyboardist Francis Monkman and jazz saxophonist Gary Windo to record a third album, all of that was quashed when Wyatt fell from a window in June 1973 which changed his life forever as he was unable to continue as a drummer. For my money, LITTLE RED RECORD is one of Wyatt's crowning achievements. The dense complexities require multiple listens for the magic to present itself but i'm personally blown away by this album. One of the highlights in my personal Canterbury Scene

siLLy puPPy | 5/5 |

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