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The Soft Machine - Volume Two CD (album) cover


The Soft Machine


Canterbury Scene

4.03 | 609 ratings

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3 stars The loss of Kevin Ayers after the release of Volume One led to a shift in direction for the Softs. Volume Two was more of a delve into jazz territory and away from the overt psychedlic jamming of their debut. Hugh Hopper, the replacement on bass, is much less dynamic and upfront as Ayers and this gap is filled by the inclusion of a horn section on many of the tracks. This new band works quite well and fans of Volume One will have nothing to complain about with this trippy collection of tunes.

One big plus over their previous album is the cleaner/clearer production value (at least to my ears). Volume Two actually sounds like it was recorded in a studio rather than a dank cave. I think this makes Volume Two much more accessable and is a better place to start for the cautious novice. The band is also more fine-tuned on this album and is quite adept at handling the sharp tempo changes you would expect from a jazz ensemble. The Soft's lyrical nonchanlantness continues with Wyatt spouting out the alphabet, musing about the seasons, the FBI, his sex life and sending a shout out to the Hendrix Experience. I think that this makes this album the funniest in the Soft's catalogue.

The big problem is the album's structure. 17 tracks in 35 min does not make for memorable listening and regardless of how well the album flows (which it does reasonably well), overall it's incoherence doesnt leave the listener with any strong impressions. The strongest tracks are, unsurprisingly, the longer ones. I was especially impressed by Wyatt's drumming on '10:30...' and 'Hibou, Animone and Bear' and the overall chaos on 'Out of Tunes'. Ultimately though, 75% of the (I hesitate to call them songs) on here are forgettable stuffing.

With hindsight, we can see that Volume Two is a transition album and hence it doesnt rate as highly as the psych-pop jamming before it or the jazz-fusion which came after. It's still more accessable than the former or the latter though and is worth a listen.

cohen34 | 3/5 |


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