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The Soft Machine - Drop CD (album) cover


The Soft Machine


Canterbury Scene

3.06 | 24 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
3 stars I'm not sure this is good news for this small label. Drop is AFAIK, their first Soft Machine album on their catalogue, but it represents the Machine at its most difficult and abstract period or phase. Indeed once Wyatt left the group "that made him so miserable" , the group turned towards a new drummer and friend of Elton Dean, I name Phil Howard. Musically the newcomer was of a different fabric than Wyatt was; unlike his predecessor, Phil was not keen on vocals, which was probably a relief to Ratledge, the most annoyed by Robert's scatting mania. But much to Ratledge's stupor, Howard turned out to be an adept of free form improv, which was Dean's wish and Hopper was interested enough to follow that direction, but this was simply horrifying Mike. Sooooo after a few concert and half an album recorded, Phil got the boot (no doubt Mike's Santiag) and in came ex-Nucleus John Marshall, that would tuirn out to be Soft Machine's third and last drummer (he' still there today). Needless to say that the given Howard phase was so short that few gigs were able to give proper tape result, but Drop is certainly one of them.

Sound-wise this is a gig from Radio Bremen recorded in October 71, so the sound is as usual quasi-perfect, but the Machine has found at least on of its limits: free jazz. If three of the four musicians seem to find their aerial space and marks quickly (Dean's sax is squeaking to death) and Hopper's fuzzed bass is dropping bombs all over), it is not really the case of the Lowrey organ, which seems to remain heavily terrestrial. Although he seems able to follow his colleagues, Mike doesn't seem very inspired by the direction taken. Note that Howard's sacking would provoke Dean's departure and the following album would be Hopper's lasts. So, as I was saying, starting out this review, now that Moonjune Records (named after that track from SM's Third album) finally release a Machine album, it's definitely one that will probably attract few sales, due to the full improvisation scheme on the disc.

Sean Trane | 3/5 |


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