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Soft Mountain - Soft Mountain CD (album) cover


Soft Mountain

Canterbury Scene

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars East meets west, Canterbury meets Tokyo and Soft Machine meets Daimonji to create 60 minutes worth of improvised jazz, rock and prog fusion on this excellent release from Hux. As the bio says, this was recorded when Hopper and Dean had a day off while touring Japan with Soft Works in 2003. Hopper contacted Japanese underground legend Hoppy Kamiyama, who roped in fellow legend (and fellow member of Daimonji and Jun Togawa) Yoshida Tatsuya, and the whole thing was recorded in two 45 minute sessions with a short break in between.

The improvisational set up is an unusual one. Although the British musicians had played with each other for many years, as had the Japanese, the bassist and drummer had never met before, and neither had the keyboard player and the saxophonist, which created an interesting tension in both the rhythm section and between the melodic lead instruments. All four musicians play superbly, but most of the time it is Elton Dean's fast and furious blowing that takes the lead. Kamiyama plays a lot of piano and electric piano for most of the album, and especially on the first piece lays down some jazzy chords for Dean to work over. When he switches to synths, as he does about 12 minutes into the first piece, it's highly effective and gives Dean a chance to catch his breath. Hopper and Yoshida gel into an efficient rhythm section, although Yoshida's drumming is a little heavy handed at times - as he's proved in his work with the Sakoto Fuji quartet, he's capable of adapting his style to the subtleties of acoustic jazz, but here he seems to be more in Ruins mode. This works to good effect in the second part, which opens with a sax/bass/drums trio that recalls the Zorn trio Painkiller (who Yoshida also plays with occasionally) but there are also times when a more delicate touch would have worked better. Towards the end of the second part there is a superb duet between Dean and Kamiyama on acoustic piano which is possibly the highlight of the album, although the standard is high throughout. The editing seems to have left the music intact, each piece only fading out when, presumably, the musicians lost the thread or things broke down, although it sounds like the opening of part 2 may have been cut as well. To come up with 60 minutes worth of music this good in 90 minutes is a testimony to the abilities of the musicians involved.

Although it's improvised, the music on Soft Mountain rarely degenerates into atonal squawking. The best comparison is perhaps Daimonji, who have a similar talent for spinning remarkably coherent music apparently out of thin air. Fans of the wilder side of Soft Machine and the Canterbury scene will enjoy this, as will afficianados of the Japanese underground. A fine album, and a fitting memorial to the brilliant Elton Dean.

Report this review (#123125)
Posted Tuesday, May 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars This really is a one of a kind project where 4 legends(Hugh Hopper, Elton Dean, Hoppy Kamiyama and Yoshida Tatsuya)get together in a recording studio and without any discussion just start playing for 45 minutes. They take a short drinks break, then play for another 45 minutes. Hugh Hopper had met keyboardist / composer/producer Hoppy Kamiyama when he was in Japan in 1999 with the GONG Family tour. He had also met Yoshida Tatsuya at a gig in the UK where he was drumming for ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE. Hopper contacted Hoppy in Japan when there on tour with SOFT WORKS in 2003 about getting together with him and Dean to play between gigs, and the fact that these two Japanese legends made the time to do this with little notice shows their admiration for these two former SOFT MACHINE players. But make no mistake the respect and admiration was mutual. And I really feel this shines through on these two 30 minute improvs(cut down from 45 minutes in the studio).

As the first track starts you can hear all 4 players but Dean's sax is the most dominant. It settles down very quickly. A sax/piano melody 2 minutes in as drums get a little crazy. Some brief solo piano after 3 minutes. The bass / piano / drums section after 6 minutes sounds great. Sax is back before 7 minutes leading the way. Check out Hopper after 8 minutes as Yoshida beats the hell out of his drum kit. I've never heard Hugh so prominant before. Liquid sounding keys after 9 minutes. The drum / keys melody is fantastic 12 minutes in. Elton is ripping it up after 14 minutes and getting dissonant after 15 minutes. It's getting pretty intense 18 minutes in before settling down some a minute later. A really good drum / bass section 24 minutes in. The bass and keys trade solos until the drums take over. Sax is back 29 1/2 minutes in.The sax and drums stood out the most on this first improv.

The second song begins with an outstanding bass / drums and sax section. We start to get some strange vocal? sounds coming and going. Keys arrive around 4 minutes followed by some heavy bass lines. It's getting intense 6 1/2 minutes in. Sax stops a minute later. The drumming is incredible ! No surprise there. Sax is back 11 minutes in, and becomes dissonant. I love the soundcape before 13 minutes. The sax gets louder 14 1/2 minutes in. More heavy bass from Hugh before 19 minutes as drums pound away. A change follows as i'm sure Yoshida's arms are numb. So we just hear piano melodies for a minute until sax joins in. The sax becomes dissonant again as piano plays on. Drums join in before 23 minutes as Dean is letting it rip. It settles with some beautiful sax and piano as drums pound away.

This is a special recording to say the least. I feel that they brought out the very best in each other for this one magical recording. Sensational.

Report this review (#168537)
Posted Wednesday, April 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Soft Machine members from band's greatest period sax player Elton Dean and bassist Hugh Hopper had some interesting Soft-family projects before. First important work was Soft Heap band, still in 70-s.

Another Soft-project (this time from 2003) was Soft Works, they were toured Japan with. During that tour they spend a day in studio, jamming with Japanese legend keyboardist Hoppy Kamiyama and avant drummer Yoshida Tatsuya (Acid Mothers Temple,Daimonji).

Two long improvs were recorded during this session, but only released on CD in 2007. Music recorded is interesting combination of Soft Machine roots (Canterbury bass and sax) with modern Japanese avant garde. Listener will easy recognise some Canterbury sound, but drumming is very different, and common atmosphere is more cool and nervous, in key of Zorn's hardcore recordings.

Really interesting recording for Soft Machine/Elton Dean/Hugh Hopper fans, but could attract Japanese avant garde lovers as well.

Around 3,5.

Report this review (#280585)
Posted Wednesday, May 5, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars When the sadly departed two giants Elton Dean and Hugh Hopper takes time of a Soft Works tour to do two pieces of improvised jazz together with two Japanese musicians I should had known who is (I am still new to this scene... but still........ shame on me !), the result is by default something special.

Elton Dean solos over the other three's bass, drums and tangents. The two Japanese musicans names is Yoshida Tatsuya and Hoppy Kamiyama. Both are involved in Damonji and I have some of their albums, ready to be enjoyed and reviewed.

The end result is dense, very intense and not immediate accessible jazz. The music here is bordering to being avant-garde too. The music is improvised and hardly rehearsed. To my knowledge, it was not meant for release either although recorded. But thankfully, it has been released in Japan.

The music here is like Soft Machine meets Japanese jazz. And that is exactly what it physically was too. If you love jazz, this is an excellent album for you. I am a Soft Machine fan, but still only dipping my toes into the rest of the jazz scene. For me, this is a bit of an alien album. But it is still a very good album which I will enjoy more and more in the years to come. I just need some more time....

3.5 stars

Report this review (#468215)
Posted Thursday, June 23, 2011 | Review Permalink

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