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Hugh Hopper - Hopper Tunity Box CD (album) cover


Hugh Hopper


Canterbury Scene

3.79 | 60 ratings

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4 stars A Classic

I find it absolutely baffling that this little jewel only has received 3 reviews here on PA. For my money, it is a clear-cut classic, and one which spawns all the right Canterbury flavours and then some - exploding in all kinds of silhouettes and shapes through eclectic tunes that span from the quirky and playful to the experimental and all out marmalade oozing larval symphonies.

This was my first venture into Hugh Hopper's discography, and it still remains a personal fave. Just like a good deal of other Canterbury releases, on Hopper Tunity Box you'll encounter that special humorous and quirky charm that helps sweeten the punch of what can only be described as looney bin fusion. It is really. If you remove the "Canterbury" from the sound of Egg, Matching Mole, Soft Machine etc etc - then all you are left with is the kind of fusion you'd hear rolling across the western world throughout the 70s - a music with lots of flex and muscles though lacking any real identity and zing. This album however is like meeting a genuine personality - a real funny guy that shakes hands with his belt and eats seagull tacos with a pair of pliers.

Just listening to the 2 opening cuts here will better explain how special and warm this album is. They both wield a somewhat funny melodic style, that bends and writhes with big booming bass lines and funky rhythms - lead on by various wind instruments which sound remarkably twisted and provocative. They've got a childlike energy to them as well - commencing Hopper Tunity Box with a thrilling and slightly naive roller-coaster ride, that will have grown ups turned into flying Peter Pans in the blink of an eye.

Funny thing about Hugh Hopper is, that he has always stood in the shadow of others - always backed others up with his charismatic belching bass, but what some people fail to realise, is just how wonderful of an orchestrator he truly was. This man was pure genius and madness emulsified into one big bearded musician that sadly now has played his last tune. For some reason, I often think of him as the British version of Holger Czukay, and whilst that may sound strange to some of you, then hear me out for a moment. First of all, back when Hopper first started playing with Daevid Allen and Robert Wyatt in 1963 - all of them were beatniks and very much into exploring new things. Already back then Hopper learned how to manipulate sound and fiddle around with tape-loops and such. A thing he would go on to implement in his music with great success, in fact a lot of this album intertwines these small snippets of loops and fiddling - reverberating, mirroring, jolting, cascading sound back and forth to whatever effect needed. Just like Czukay studied under Stockhausen and later on transcribed those teachings onto solo albums such as Canaxis and later on with Can - Czukay and Hopper remain kindred spirits in my mind for some of the same reasons, even if these men never crossed paths in their lives. There is a sense of exploration about both of them. I can vividly imagine these music nerds deeply engulfed in old radios - playing around with signals and noises, gluing sporadic segments of sound together to form something out of this world - something wondrous.

This thought is perhaps a bit out there, I'll admit to that, but once you put this album on, I promise you'll come around - especially when you hit a number like Mobile Mobile, that sounds uncannily like a piece of Krautrock with its waving gimmickry and psychedelic undertones. This is Hopper experimenting, and even if this album still retains its melodic and naive approach throughout its playing time, the ghost of his debut 1984 still hovers over it - occasionally lending a helping hand to the proceedings - just like on this specific track.

If you are one of those who fancies name-dropping instead of silly masquerades and nebulous banter, then here are some names for ya: Mark Charig, Elton Dean, Nigel Morris, Dave Stewart, Gary Windo - all of which appear on this outing adding organs, saxophones, drums, guitars, cornets, clarinet, piano and pianet. Everything is played with great enthusiasm and the opening energetic naiveness of this album luckily carries on to the following tracks. There is not a bummer in sight, and once you get accustomed to the quirky feel of the thing - the loops, the fiddling around with tape speed and all these other playful characteristics of Hopper Tunity Box, maybe then you'll see this record as I do: like a fantastic polaroid of the Canterbury scene Hugh Hopper style.

Guldbamsen | 4/5 |


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