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The Soft Machine - Seven CD (album) cover

SEVEN

The Soft Machine

 

Canterbury Scene

3.59 | 176 ratings

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LionRocker
3 stars Once you reach the bottom, the only direction to go is up. Unfortunately, this was the once great Soft Machine's case after hitting sub rock bottom with their all night jazz hangover wank- a-thons featuring Elton Dean's *insert random dying animal sound here* bebop sax soloing splattered all over "Fourth" and "Fifth". Okay okay, they weren't that nasty and could be some okayish background sound on a good day but gradually and gradually the endless sax grinds into one's head and flows into all the pain areas of one's brain.

So, thankfully, once Dean flew the coop, the band moved on from pure jazz to the always reliable jazz fusion. Now, rather then the endless 'play your godforsaken instrument til the world subsequently blows up or at least until someone's spit valve overflows' style of "Fourth" and "Fifth", the band churns out grooves, riffs, and other moody textures and intertwine them with solos. This is good. The diversity of the band's past is slowly but surely regaining its place amongst their music once again but the one thing these wonky British dudes haven't managed to exercise from their songwriting is the boredom. The actually written music they come up with is both enjoyable and respectable but each piece of music seems grounded.

A typical song from the period of "Six" and "Seven" often has a riff that endlessly repeats over the course of five minutes creating a groove. Case and Point: "Day's Eye" and "Penny Hitch". I think these two songs can make some of the most palatable background music as they both have good, repetitive riffs but simply don't do enough to justify their lengths. Good "focusing" music though, especially when you're doing complex algebraic equations or something of that like matter.

Oh yeah, there is exciting music on here, by the way. "Nettle Bed" is hard and fast, (That's what she didn't say) two qualities that are guaranteed to hold down my attention for a while. Contained in this rollicking album opener are two great, flashy riffs that underpin a concise organ solo in which Ratledge experiments with the tonalities of his instrument. The only other thing that annoys me about this album is he never does that too much, usually sticking to a shrill, fuzzy pitch that isn't really unpleasant but gets boring fast. The lively "Nettle Bed" is the highlight of this bunch and brings some frantic energy to an album that's often too overly mellow.

Speaking of mellow, I also dig the following "Carol Ann", a haunting Jenkins piece played almost entirely by Ratledge and the band's double bassist, Roy Babbington. The melody played solely on synths and electric piano, not only has sereneness to it but also a melancholy feel. See, this is another track with discernable moods, something that "Fourth" never possessed in it's entirety.

Unfortunately, nothing else reaches the level of these two tracks in terms of emotional resonance. "Day's Eye" has a neat oboe filled opening and a bass riff that can prove to be very hypnotic on those long days when I feel liking paying attention to a jazz fusion record but it just goes on way too long. "Tarabos" has the same formula albeit with a much heavier arrangement. (The louder, the better I tend to prefer.) I draw the line at their egocentric drummer slapping on another one his patented percussion instrumentals, though. Look, we all know you had the finest pedigree when we bought you at the 'Very Rare and Exotic Jazz Fusion Drummer Store' but must you justify it every single time we make a danged record? Jeeez...

Well, other then the gloppy soloing boredom of "Block", the lethargic, bass driven "Down the Road", and "Penny Hitch" which totally sounds like it could have been the backing track to a slow free style rap, (I'm not kidding. Look it up on Youtube!) we have a few cute little ambient pieces that are simply nice to meditate too. And after them, we reach the end of our album. What a long, occasionally boring trip it's been.

Like I've mention above, this is all great background music but thinking man's music it ain't or at least mostly ain't. "Nettle Bed" and "Carol Ann" are fun, fun, fun but the rest are simply pleasant but boring. Still, at least I'm safe from the vengeance of that evil saxophone! C+

Best Songs: Nettle Bed, Carol Ann

Worst Songs: Block, D.I.S.

LionRocker | 3/5 |

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