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The Soft Machine - Volume Two CD (album) cover

VOLUME TWO

The Soft Machine

 

Canterbury Scene

4.06 | 461 ratings

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baz91
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Soft Machine's first two albums are usually lumped together, as they are both the main albums where Robert Wyatt's presence can be felt, mainly through his insane lyrics, but also in the psychedelic structure of the music. However, whilst the band's debut was a brilliant album, 'Volume Two' was merely good. For starters, this album is 8 minutes shorter than the first one, clocking in at just 33 minutes in total. Despite it's brevity, however, the band give a lot to chew on.

The first side of the record is actually just one long continuous track, Rivmic Melodies, which lasts about 17 minutes. This track is split into 10 different sections, some of which mirror earlier sections. Despite being well written and interesting in places, this track fails to grab me as it doesn't feel cohesive. Reciting the alphabet near the beginning just makes this piece feel silly. It's not that this is a bad piece, but it's not my cup of tea.

Side 2 has a couple of interlude songs followed by an extended piece called Esther's Nose Job. The first of these interlude songs is As Long As He Lies Perfectly Still, which actually sounds like an extension of Rivmic Melodies. Again, this track also fails to really grab my attention.

The second short song is Dedicated To You But You Weren't Listening, a solo track by Robert Wyatt. This song encapsulates what I love about Wyatt and his ability to take a lovely song and make it bizarre and insane. Why Hopper and Ratledge ever wanted to forget about lyrics altogether when they had Wyatt on board is a mystery to me. This is a brilliant yet brief track.

The standout track for me, however, is Esther's Nose Job an 11-minute piece which is a precursor of 'Third' and the instrumental direction the band would take in years to come. The first two minutes of the song are dominated by a lot of instrumental 'crashing', followed by a theme on the organ which is repeated at various points in the song. There are just 3 verses, with great lyrics about wanting to be naked, which are finished in under a minute. Afterwards, the band set off on a brilliant 7/8 instrumental journey, which includes some tempo changes, Wyatt using Jon Anderson-esque wordless vocals, a drum solo and more uses of the ominous theme heard near the beginning of the song. This is a surprisingly brilliant song to rock out, mainly due to Wyatt's amazing skill on the drums. 7/8 might just be my favourite time signature, and I'd use this piece to justify my decision any day.

With 'The Soft Machine', I could listen to the whole album in one go without getting bored, but unfortunately with 'Volume Two' I've had no such luxury. Still, just as with the first album, this record is a creative powerhouse of psychedelic and jazzy bliss. I'd snap up anything with Wyatt's name on it and so should you!

baz91 | 4/5 |

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