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The Soft Machine - The Soft Machine CD (album) cover

THE SOFT MACHINE

The Soft Machine

 

Canterbury Scene

4.07 | 375 ratings

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The Wizard
Prog Reviewer
5 stars I remember when I first heard about the Soft Machine how incredibly cool they sounded. They named themselves after a Burroughs novel, had the hippest clothing ever, references to DaDa and pataphysics all throughout their song titles and they played at the place called the UFO Club with Syd Barrett. And the music. It was so originally yet so of the times. The organs, soulful vocals, witty lyrics, jazz madness, and acid sprinkled all over the place made what is in my opinion one of the finest albums of the 60's, Volume 1.

In the liner notes of the album it is described that the music of The Soft Machine is intended to put the mind on a journey, some form of cerebral stimulation. That's absoultly what the music is like. Yet it's never pure unhinged psychedelic freak-out. Throughout the album there is a strong pop sensibility. Songs like 'Save Yourself' and 'Lullaby Letter' show their ability to craft incredible pop tunes while still keeping that psychedelic and experimental edge that makes this album great.

All the electronic manipulation and effects found in this record couldn't be further from pure gimmickry. Every far out organ tone or blast of fuzzed out bliss serves a purpose within the song. There's really nothing self indulgent to be found on the album. Even the slightly longer than brief drum solo in 'So Boot If At All' stays interesting the whole way through, with backwards piano and psychedelic strangeness giving even a drum solo texture.

Early trance-rock is even experimented with, with Kevin Ayers's 'We Did it Again', which shows they could have influenced some elements of the krautrock movement. 'Why Are We Sleeping' is the grand finale of the album and is one of the greatest tracks in the 60's. Kevin's spoken word poetry is what makes the song. Other bands like The Moody Blues sound incredibly pretentious and cheesy when they use spoken word in their songs, but in this case it works amazing. Everything from the blown out organ attack to the joyfully sung chorus of this track is pure classic.

'Why am I so Short' is piece by Robert Wyatt featuring fierce drumming and lyrics which Wyatt describes himself with much wit and humor: "I've got a drum-kit and some sticks, so when I'm drunk or in a fit, I find it easy to express myself!". One of the great things about the atmosphere is that it's actually quite down to earth lyrically, with songs about girls, happiness, and life in generally. Yet it's the off-key and creative vocal styles of Wyatt and Ayer's that give them an edge.

Soft Machine's debut is a work of outstanding creativity and craft. It fills me up with joy whenever I hear it. This album is the auditory form of bliss.

The Wizard | 5/5 |

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