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Matching Mole - Little Red Record CD (album) cover


Matching Mole

Canterbury Scene

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5 stars One of the very best, a prog rock classic, excellent musicianship but with a looseness that lends alot of character, one of the best dozen Canterbury discs, seems like a logical extension of Third by Soft Machine (Machine Mole in French is Soft Machine) for Wyatt. Essential.
Report this review (#4800)
Posted Tuesday, January 27, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars 4.5 stars really!!!

Less than seven months after recording their debut album, having toured constantly recording a few radio sessions throughout Europe, MM entered the studios in July 72 for their second (and last, but they weren't aware of it) album that was produced by Robert Fripp. Armed with an highjacked Chinese propaganda poster, the sleeve (and the album title) leaves little doubt as to their political aspirations, although I suspect that this was probably not shared by everyone in the group, because the ambiance within the group quickly became detestable and two months after its release, the group over, even if the explanation was about gigs not being paid and bankruptcy. So with Sinclair gone just after the debut's release, McRae is alone on keys, but the major difference with their first is Wyatt's songwriting that had filled almost all of the album, was reduced to absolutely none in LRR, if you'll except the lyrics and other vocals, but these holds a big part of creativity.

Starting on one of the most surprising track that Wyatt ever recorded, Drink Our Politics Away is a strange semi-operatic over some McRae keyboards and Eno synth layer. Directly and abruptly segueing into Marchides (much the same way Signed Curtain had given in to Part Of The Dance on their previous album), the group takes its vengeance with a wild and torrid 100MPH jazz-rock that veers a bit dissonant in its middle section, before coming back more relaxed. Some exceptionally inventive drumming from Wyatt on this track that had received much previous rehearsal since it was concert standard, but everyone contributes greatly. Again segueing straight into Nan's True Hole, Robert develops some very strange gossipy vocals with him, wifie Alfie and friendly model Julie just yapping away over Wyatt's jaw-dropping drumming and a Frippian guitar solo, courtesy of .. Phil Miller; the whole thing falling into Righteous Rhumba without really noticing much a change. Closing on the wild Brandy for Benj (a roadie), with McRae on a rare organ part at the start and Miller's brilliant solo.

Being shutout throughout the first half of the album, McCormick scores Gloria's Gloom as the flipside opens with the second centrepiece, which starts nightmarishly percussive and hauntingly spooky with Eno's VCS-3 deranging many listeners and remaining dissonant through a few minutes, until chattering gossipy vocals take the track slowly into the middle section where Wyatt singing his heart out until Eno's Martenot-like synth layers take us back to earth. After the popish God Song (sticking out like a sore thumb), Flora Fidgit (Frigid Flora? Yashure?? ;-)) where McRae's el piano steals the show. The closing Smoke Signal is the third highlight, a slow developing ambient cosmic piece with Wyatt's astounding drumming, and slowly dying in death throes

Although MM's last studio album is generally not as reputed as its debut album, bit it's certainly no worse an album, with this one being more of a group effort. Both MM are absolutely essential to Canterbury fans, but it's not recommended to start with them, if you're a newbie.

Report this review (#4803)
Posted Tuesday, February 3, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars It would would of been a good album; as great as their debut! But Robert Fripp's production went a little out of hand! Fripp was an innaprropriate producer for this sort of music. Canterbury is not the way for him! Since Fripp does not have much of a sense of humor! ;) There are still some good highlights on this album though, like Marchides which jams out well & phil's guitar work along with Robert's drum work make this track a jam worthy piece! Nan's True Hole contains one of the most memorable riffs ever! The dialogue is over-done on this track though. Smoke Signal's is the grand master composition here! Beautiful & well done. The other tracks are weak compared to the live versions on the Cuneiform release: "Smoke Signals."

Good album overall, but weak production.

Report this review (#4801)
Posted Wednesday, February 11, 2004 | Review Permalink
Steve Hegede
5 stars MATCHING MOLE was Robert Wyatt's first project after leaving SOFT MACHINE. The group released two albums with Little Red Record as their second effort. The music here sounds like a quirky combination of SOFT MACHINE, Robert Wyatt's Rock Bottom, Brian Eno, with even a bit of KING CRIMSON thrown in (Robert Fripp appears on a couple of tracks). The overall atmosphere is experimental and fun. Most of the album sounds like a group of prog musicians having a great time in a garage and in the studio. The music is complex, yet loose. Whether you enjoy this CD, or not, depends on your opinion of Robert Wyatt's voice. Many people have no problems with it, while others can't stand it. So I recommend this CD to people who are familiar with SOFT MACHINE, and Robert Wyatt's Rock Bottom. If you're not familiar with Robert Wyatt, check out SOFT MACHINE's "Third".

Report this review (#4802)
Posted Monday, March 22, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Strange brew these guys were sipping when they recorded "Little Red Record" ...right from the opening vocalizations to the final track, we are greeted by some highly inventive instrumentation and clever song writing. For those hunting for the best work of Robert Wyatt I would have to put this in that shared category. MATCHING MOLE played a finely crafted Canterbury'ish styled fusion prog rock which featured the talents of Dave MacRae and Bill MacCormick (QUIET SUN), Robert Wyatt , Phil Miller of HATFIELD AND THE NORTH and even a guest appearance by Brian Eno on synthesizer. With the album being produced by CRIMSON's Robert Fripp you know we might be in for something kind of special. The end result is really a smattering of witty and often thrilling avant-fusion album bringing a slightly more gritty feel to the Canterbury scene... really hear mixes of KING CRIMSON, GENTLE GIANT, CARAVAN and HATFIELD. For me this is a superb album and one you must snang... some deep and wonderful progressive moments.
Report this review (#4805)
Posted Wednesday, February 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars The second work of announcement in 1972 "Matching Mole's little red record". Brian Eno also participates by the guest. Produce is Robert Flipp. By the way, the collaboration of Flipp&Eno started from meeting here. It became a work that instrumental has been enhanced. It is a work that listens easily from the former work. The sense is very good though it is not a technique performance. Is it the producer's influence that the guitar of Phil Miller seems like the performance of Robert Flipp?It is an especially album of the recommendation in the keyboard fan. It recommends it for the fan of HATFIELDS.
Report this review (#43519)
Posted Saturday, August 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars 'Little red record' is Matching Mole's second and last studio record. As you might have noticed there are some political allusions on the cover (and in the lyrics as well: "Like so many of you I've got my doubts about how much to contribute to the already rich among us/How can I pretend that music is more relevant than fighting for a socialist world."'Gloria Gloom'). The cover was originally a propaganda postcard with the title "We are determinated to liberate Taiwan". The heads of the soldiers being replaced by those of the members of Matching Mole. Now, On the first record the majority of compositions was by Robert Wyatt with a little help of his friends. On 'Little red record' there is not one(!) Wyatt composition; he wrote all the lyrics so. Since the release of the first record the band had toured and developped a 'band sound'.Dave Mc Rae, who guested on the first record had become a fulltime member and is very present on 'Little red record' in terms of compositions and sound, it is a keyboard oriented record.The record was produced by Robert Fripp and a part from the band you got the 'Mütter Chorus' (Dave Gale, Robert's wife Alfreda Benge and her friend the actrice Julie Christie), on background vocals and 'occasional smalltalk'. The record is a mixture of Jazz-Rock, tongue in cheek humour and political lyrics. On the first side of the vinyl all tracks were seagued into each other and formed a long suite, with a strong presence of Dave Mc Rae's distorted and treated e-piano. There is a nice equilibrium between the instrumental and vocal passages. Side Two started with 'Gloria Gloom',a Bill Mc Cormick composition and the most openly political statement on the record, followed by a Phil Miller composition 'God's song', a beautiful ballad played on acoustic guitar. The record ends with a beautiful theme by Dave Mc Rae 'Smoke Signal' , a signature tune for Matching Mole and it's swan song. My personal advice would be to listen to this masterpiece from start to beginning to enjoy it as a whole and to discover it's subtilities.
Report this review (#57570)
Posted Wednesday, November 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
Zac M
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is the lesser of the two Matching Mole albums IMO. That being said, this is still quite an enjoyable album. The two studio releases only differ by a half star as far as I'm concerned. If I remember correctly, Fripp and Eno both appeared on this album, with Fripp taking the seat as the Producer.

The album opens with "Starting in the Middle of the Day, We Can Drink Our Politics Away," a song just as good as "O Caroline" from the first album. This track bridges into "Marchides," a Mole classic as far as I'm concerned. Among the rest of the album, I also enjoy "Gloria Gloom" and "Smoke Signals," another classic. The longer tracks on this album are for the most part, more enjoyable than the shorter ones. However, I can't say that there is one particularly bad or weak part on the album. I just don't feel that this album deserves more than four stars, since the first and more importamt of the two, gets 4.5.

Great effort from Wyatt's post-Soft Machine group, and definitely worth checking out by all Canterbury fans, although I still say start with the first. 4 stars, excellent sophomore album.

Report this review (#70618)
Posted Sunday, February 26, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Bufff...

Like Henry Cow's "LegEnd", this album is amazing for me. Maybe "amazing" is not the word. I want to say I didn't like this type of music in the past. When I heard Soft Machine's "Third" I thought: "What's this", and I decided that music is not my music. But now I've heard this album and ... well, I like it. Because its excellent cover, and its music. I can't talk about this, and I don't know if this album should to have three or four stars. But my four stars are for a really "progressive" music, innovative musical forms and concepts. My four stars come from my heart, not from my brain. Excuse me for my sensitivity :-)

Report this review (#101167)
Posted Thursday, November 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars A Canterbury classic for sure, the second Mole album rocks hard with driving jazz-rock and great musicianship. Brian Eno's electronic intro to Gloria Gloom (a song later covered by Henry Cow) is outstanding, but the 'voiceover' gimmick is simply annoying and what should have been an anthem is rather thrown away. The witty but blasphemous 'God Song' on the other hand stands up as one of the best songs of the entire scene, perhaps why Phil Miller is still playing it with Hatfield and the North. Side two then noodles off into jazz again, and leaves you feeling slightly shortchanged. Fripp and Wyatt did not get on, which might explain the undercooked taste of this album, but it's still a lot of fun if you skip the most self-indulgent bits.
Report this review (#114512)
Posted Thursday, March 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I'd love to give the album a full five's prototypically Canterburian - far out compositions and great performances, but the music (like all things) isn't for everyone. Some point out the lack of direction....others dislike Fripp's muddy/muddled production....still others don't dig the predominance of the noodly jazz and lack of "O, Caroline" type structured songs. These negatives just happen to define the type of music I'm into at the moment....the expirementation and focus of the group holds the album together....the performances are outstanding and lead to an overall feel and flow that makes the album ultralistenable. It's mellow fusion jazz that's full of surprises....something new to hear at every spin. Highly recommended to Wyatt fans....the LP again proves that the guy was a great jazzy drummer. Highly recommended to Fripp fans....even though the production is a little muddy (I just think that can be pinned on budgetary restraints), Fripp's influence is obvious (especially when you play this and their first LP consecutively). Highly recommended to Phil Miller fans....he's still an underappreciated soloist and improviser.

Again, it's one of those albums I'd love to give five's my favorite of the Mole records and another shining star in the Wyatt discography, but it's just too edgy to consider essential and a bit too much of it's ilk to consider a masterpiece (though it's a true masterpiece if open-ended Canterburian jazz jams are your cup o' tea). If Waterloo Lilly is your favorite Caravan album, this will definitely be right up your alley.

4.49999 stars....rounded off to four.

Report this review (#114596)
Posted Thursday, March 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars "How long can I pretend that music's more relevant than fighting for a socialist world?" (Gloria Gloom)

In spite of all of Robert Wyatt's ideological doubts, LITTLE RED RECORD sounds far better than its predecessor. This time it's obvious that Matching Mole deeply care about what they play. On 'Marchides' and 'Flora Fidgit', for example, Phil Miller shines on electric guitar, and Dave McRae produces some memorable phrases on electric piano. 'Righteous Rhumba' equally features a superb guitar solo, accompanied on organ. On 'Brandy as in Benj' McRae gets another chance to shine on piano; his playing is far more subtle than David Sinclair's was on the band's first album, and Miller accompanies him by strumming jazzy chords on guitar: premonitions of Hatfield and the North!

Judging from the album's cover, Matching Mole were firmly in thrall to Maoist ideology. I assume they were blissfully unaware that, had they lived in China, their music and lifestyle would have landed them in a re-education camp, somewhere far away in the countryside. Maybe all that Maoist posturing was meant as a joke? I really don't know what to make of lyrics such as: "My radical cheek is soft and meek / but I'll kill if I must. / I'd rather have the Chinese here than Europe on me thrust"... And then there's the fact that, in the early 1980s, Wyatt started recording songs in praise of father Stalin... Oh well, to tell you the truth, I never bothered with Matching Mole's lyrics until I found them on the Calyx website. (With the exception of 'God Song', Phil Miller's anti-religious diatribe, which always made me think!) The band's playing, at least, is first-rate. Recommended!

Report this review (#131512)
Posted Friday, August 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars #! Starting In The Middle Of The Day, We Can Drink Our Poly-Ticks Away::::::::: Time after time Wyatt always impresses me with his unusual vocal production using different layers of his voice, to give it a feeling that three or four or more Roberts are singing, this is a good example of that. This song is a weird song to start the album off with in my honest opinion. I think song number two called Marchides::::::: would have made a good opener with distorted sounds, complex musically, very interesting song, many twists and turns and secret passages, strong bass by Bill MaCormick who I have always thougt of him to be a very strong bass player, especially on the 801 live album, which proves his talent. Some good (distorted) electric piano action, including some good enosification, towards the end the song progresses into a long instrumental psychedelic jam, with weird elements coded on everything. This song bleeds into: Nan True's Hole this song has a very heavy thick psychedelic feeling, so insane this song is, that it trippp's all my friends out every time, has some intense jamming, with some English lady talking about something. Includes some good vocals from Wyatt.

#4 Righteous Rhumba::::::::: Once again Wyatt using multi-layer vocals tracks, some with delay. Great performance, great keyboard soloing.

#5 8randy As In Benji::::::::: Guitar stands out on this one, but there are some very jazzy drumming from Wyatt as well. This song is all instumental.

#6 Gloria Gloom:::::::: Brian Eno makes himself very present at the begining and end of this song, when ever Eno makes an apperance on an album, you know there is going to be something unusual is brewing. After Eno's furry gloomy dark ambient intro, there is a sounds of two or three different conversations going on then comes Roberts unique voice, and great drumming also. After that comes Eno's ambience again, bringing the 8min song to a close.

#7 God Song:::::::::Beautiful Song, great guitar, bass, keys, and vocals that express Wyatt's views, which are somewhat humorous, yet presented in a serious way, which is typical in the Canterbury sound.

#8 Flora Fidget::::::::Complex is how I would describe it, jazzy drums, no vocals, jazzy bass, good keys. This song blends into Smoke Signal, this last song on the last Matching Mole studio albums. At 6:38min this song gets pretty spacey, and seems to be improvised, or enosification, this ends with strong drums from Wyatt. This Song makes an allright closer but I think Gloria Gloom whould have been a tad bit better.

Report this review (#137042)
Posted Saturday, September 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars MATCHING MOLE's second and final studio album was produced by Robert Fripp and featured a guest appearance from Brian Eno. This is more of a band effort than their debut was and the lone lineup change is David Sinclair going back to CARAVAN to record "For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night" and being replaced by Dave McRae who guested on the debut album.

Rather an awkward opening track in my opinion "Starting In The Middle Of The Day We Can Drink Our Politics Away" is my least favourite song on here. The song features piano and vocal melodies with organ coming in late. "Marchides" and the next three songs all blend together like they are one long suite. "Marchides" opens with someone speaking and laughter before guitar or fuzz organ comes in with an uptempo soundscape. It sounds great ! Some atmosphere 3 1/2 minutes in as the melody stops. For 2 minutes we get different sounds that come and go. We then get a nice melody to conclude the song that is a little slower than the original one. "Nan True's Hole" opens sounding very much like GENTLE GIANT. We then hear a conversation between a supposed prostitute and her 40 year old customer as angular guitar melodies are played. Nice. This sure sounds like Fripp playing. "Righteous Rhumba" features male and female vocals that are spoken. More great guitar in this one as drums pound away.

"Brandy As In Benj" has some amazing drumming from Wyatt. The instrumental middle of this song is very enjoyable, and it ends with organ. "Gloria Gloom" is sort of an odd experimental song. Eno is on synths here. There are conversations going on as the music is playing. The last couple of minutes feature Eno on synths in a calm but dark ending. "God Song" like "Nan True's Hole" would be easy targets of my complaining but this is Canterbury and these lyrics though perhaps offensive to some are silly and not to be taken too seriously. As for the music it's typically beautiful with Wyatt's unique vocals and acoustic guitar. Both songs in question are so good instrumentally but lyrically, well... "Flora Fidgit" features electric piano, guitar, bass and drums. I really like this tune. It blends into the final track "Smoke Signal" that seems like the same melody only slower. The drumming after 4 minutes is incredible. It has a spacey, psychedelic ending.

Tough one to rate really. There is so much great music here reminding me of the middle part of their debut album. It's the talking and conversations, along with the first song that bring it down a little for me. If you want to hear what a great drummer Robert Wyatt was, this is the album to check out.

Report this review (#141412)
Posted Monday, October 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I'm glad that Robert Wyatt left Soft Machine, I believe his work as a drummer shines here more than any of his earlier works. It isn't that his playing is super duper fast, or immediately impressive; but his diversity, his time, it's as if he is keeping track of 40 million different things at once. I love when experimental rock can be light and airy, like this album is; full of sex, politics, and humor too, which is always a plus. This is a fun album.
Report this review (#170244)
Posted Thursday, May 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars I have some strong moral reservations about even putting my fingers on a record which is dedicated to a book which killed millions of people and ravaged a country. But that aside........

I have made the rule never listen to an album more than ten times before reviewing it for PA or any other publications. I feel like I need fifty listenings to this album before I can make up my mind. I find it hard to express any coherent views on this album.

Little Red Record has a lot of strange melody lines and ideas. It sometimes feels like an Egg album and sometimes like a Soft Machine album. It has some strange guitars, some loony vocals and some even weirder keyboards. It is both funky, avant-garde, anti- commercial and strangely commercial at the same time. Some of this album is pretty hypnotic. Some of the stuff here is mindnumbing dull too. Some of the music here is beautiful. This is avant-garde Canterbury Scene prog in other words.

Does this make sense at all ? I have problems putting my thoughts about this album together into a coherent review. This album takes me through a lot of stuff. It is pretty coherent incoherent. With that, I mean there is some order in this madness. But I am not so sure if that is my kind of order. I still find this album a very good album. But it has some serious flaws (ie the mindnumbing dull stuff). That's why I can't give it more than three stars. Don't ask me why. I am still incoherent.

3.5 stars

Report this review (#257186)
Posted Monday, December 21, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Second (and final studio) Matching Mole's album is quite different from its predecessor.Psychedelic naive and beautiful pop/rock songs has gone, and the band stepped to complex experimental jazz fusion area. Being predominantly instrumental, this release contains not much of Wyatt's vocals, but demonstrates one of the best his drumming ever.

Organist David Sinclair, collaborated on band's debut,left the band, and Dave McRae started to use synthesizer. Electronic music guru Brian Eno,being on the peak of his experimental activities at that period, participated in album's recordings as guest musician,he didn't played much physically there, but his electronic sound using ideas did influence album's sound for sure.

Compositions on this album are mostly complex interplay between all musicians,with great drumming,bass structures and plenty of experimental keyboards sounds. Very soon use of synthesizers and electronic effects will become the real nightmare,destroying many musical genres for decades, but there on this album (as on some more Eno's albums of early 70-s) one can hear how interesting and tasteful electronic sounds could be.

Few vocal-oriented songs are presented here,with obvious influence of early Soft Machine's aesthetics, but even them are transformed according to more modern and experimental band's direction. Some compositions sound very close to Soft Machine's Third (just slightly more relaxed) - it's really difficult to avoid comparing Matching Mole with Soft Machine!Better organised than their debut,with structure and direction,this release sounds more mature (even if some naive but so attractive late 60-s spirit has gone). In all - strong experimental jazz fusion album with successful use of early electronic and plenty of artistic ideas on it. In many senses,this album is more attractive than Soft Machine's releases from post-classic period.

Speaking about this album,it's difficult to avoid one more theme - radical leftist Wyatt's ideology. Album's name and cover both refer to Chairman Mao's Little Red Book and Wyatt is openly influenced by Cultural Revolution idea. I can hardly imagine someone attracted by Chinese Cultural Revolution or Stalin's Gulags nowadays, but under all these naive but organic Wyatt's political craziness I see more infantile pose than serious point of view. I spent my childhood and young years in the world Wyatt possibly dreamed about in early 70- s (the world with empty shop shelves,grey clothes and grey faces,the world, where people saw no future and were afraid of any man in uniform, and with small children, dreaming about few mandarins or banana as best New Year's gift (not Christmas gift - Christmas was banned)),and I am sure that leftist heaven from Wyatt would look as real heaven for millions of those, living in Socialist reality. And Wyatt himself with his artistic personality would finish in Siberian concentration camp for sure. So - really attracted by music, I don't care much about ideology of this release: Wyatt just doesn't understand what he is speaking about here, don't hate him for that!

This album became last band's studio release,Wyatt started his real solo career after, and Phil Miller went on to two other Canterbury scene bands, Hatfield & the North and National Health.

My rating is 3,5,rounded to 4.

Report this review (#402824)
Posted Friday, February 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars A good record, but IMHO the new structures took a bit of the fun away, and with the exit of the "master of Canterbury organ" Dave Sinclair, and few Wyatt-penned pieces, not much was left to hang onto. But what was left is still worth on it's own.

Legend has it that Miller couldn't play properly during the sessions because of producer Robert Fripp, whom Phil considered to be his favourite guitarist, leading to a decline of his input, and yet, he is the true star of Little Red Record, playing intensely in songs like "Righteous Rhumba" and "Marchides" and penning songs like "Nan True's Hole".

To replace Sinclair, Dave McRae was brought in. He doesn't play any organ and his shimmering electric piano sound isn't worthy in a studio environment (it is a true monster live, though: just check March!), this creates a certain emptiness in the once rich atmosphere of the first album.

Finally, Wyatt's lyrics are a bit lacklustre if put side by side with the ones from Matching Mole, using only socialist jokes such as the one from the cover, making up for a narrow perspective. That said, some, such as the lyrics to "Gloria Gloom", are worth a laugh every now and then.

But apart from the minor quibbles, Little Red Record is a strong jazz-fusion release full of very good extended improvs and different moods, and the socialist theme is not to be taken seriously (even though Wyatt liked it's ideas).

Somehow harder to get into, less charming, and featuring a thinner production, but not less inventive than it's predecessor, Little Red Record still has a lot to give. And don't let the cover deceive or scary you, there's way less danger here than it does look like.

Report this review (#451662)
Posted Tuesday, May 24, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Matching Mole's first album was Robert Wyatt's chance to finally get on record musical concepts developed during his tenure in Soft Machine which, for whatever reason, had been vetoed by the rest of that band. For the second album, the group took a more democratic approach to songwriting, resulting in a more diverse album that isn't quite so dominated by Wyatt's songs - Wyatt perhaps wanting to avoid repeating in his new band the same mistakes that drove him out of his old band.

As a consequence, the album is a bit of a patchy affair, with the band as a whole casting about and trying to decide what sort of music it wants to perform. Opening track Gloria Gloom (on the CD version - Wyatt decided for CD releases to swap around side A and side B from the vinyl since he thought that yielded a better running order) begins with ambient noises - perhaps courtesy of guest synth wizard Brian Eno - that sound like a decades-displaced-in-time Aphex Twin before launching into avant-Canterbury strangeness, whilst other tracks start pointing the way to Phil Miller's later work in Hatfield and the North. (An instrumental version of Nan True's Hole, for example, would be performed live at Hatfield concerts under the anagrammatic title of Oh! Len's Nature.)

Still, as a whole the album lacks focus, and sounds more like experiments towards a band identity rather than the group manifesto the album title suggests. Perhaps a third Matching Mole album would have been more cohesive; unfortunately, that was not to be. Wyatt, worse for wear at a party, would take a startling fall from a balcony a short time after this album was released, paralysing him for life - and whilst Wyatt did thankfully escape an untimely death, the change in his circumstances meant that Matching Mole was not so lucky. Fans of Wyatt's Rock Bottom album or Miller's work with the Hatfields will be interested in the context this album provides for those works, but otherwise this is not an especially essential Canterbury release, and certainly not as gripping as Matching Mole's debut.

Report this review (#499650)
Posted Monday, August 8, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars ESOTERIC 2012 Expanded Edition

Matching Mole lasted barely a year as a group before Robert Wyatt decided he'd had enough of band leadership, but during this time, they managed to make two albums of which this is the second. While the first was very much Wyatt's own baby, this was more of a democratic affair, and it has to be said it sounds a lot more relaxed and at times humourous.

"Like so many of you, I've got my doubts about how much to contribute to the already rich" sings Wyatt over guest star Eno's synth tones on `Gloria Gloom'. The more things change the more they stay the same. The album despite its title is not a series of politically motivated songs, but with the exception of the wonderful `God Song' ("Next time you send your boy down here, give him a wife and a sexy daughter") is a largely instrumental excursion.

With Dave McCrae's Fender Rhodes more to the fore, the sound is a somewhat denser one than the first album, and in various places there is some experimentation with voices and humour (Monty Python was all the rage), but nothing which detracts from the seriousness of the matter at hand, some fine ensemble playing.

This new edition from Esoteric once again includes some very worthwhile bonus material, as well as a previously issued BBC concert (in best ever quality it has to be said) there are some fascinating out-takes including a wonderful `straight' vocal performance of the album's opener `Starting In The Middle Of The Day...' and some extended takes of `Smoke Signal' and `Flora Fidget', and for those already very familiar with the album, the moment "it's the Mole!" came into being ! Marvellous stuff.

Anything by this sadly short lived band is to be treasured and this wonderful reissue only adds to that legacy.

Report this review (#782679)
Posted Friday, July 6, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars "We are determined to liberate Taiwan!"

Soon after their eponymous debut, Matching Mole hit the road and toured western Europe, appearing on various TV shows and festivals. It was at that time that David Sinclair left the band to play with Hatfield and the North and later on Caravan's For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night. He was replaced with Dave MacRae, a jazz keyboardist from New Zealand, who was already credited as a guest on Matching Mole's debut album. In July of 1972, about half a year after their first work, the band entered the doors of London's CBS Studios to record Matching Mole's Little Red Record. The release was produced by Robert Fripp of King Crimson. In addition, the band invited Brian Eno, the pioneer synthesist, to guest on their album.

The title of the release is an allusion to Chairman Mao's Little Red Book, known as the Maoist bible of the cultural revolution period. The cover art portrays the band members on what looks like a Chinese communist propaganda poster. The inspiration for the cover painting came from a Chinese postcard with a caption that read "We are determined to liberate Taiwan!" Despite a lot of controversy, the group, in fact, had nothing to do with idea for the album art, as the drawing was designed by CBS' graphic designers. Robert Wyatt even admitted that he did not particularly like the design. Wyatt's lyrics on Little Red Record have also been an object of heated discussion. The artist declares that the fight for the righteous socialist world should also be expressed in music and confesses that his beliefs are closer to the Chinese communist world rather than the degenerated capitalist west.

Musically, Little Red Record is a quintessential Canterbury scene album. Matching Mole's style is notably different from their debut album. The group got rid of the song-oriented ballads almost entirely and introduced an even higher amount of jazz-fueled improvisation to their music. However, showcasing the group's members' musical skill does not seem to be the aim of the numerous improvisational passages that appear so frequently on Little Red Record. The heavy repeating passages, which often do provide a base for instrumental solos, create musical tension, which makes the music on this record incredibly moody and full of distinctive mysticism. The typical tongue-in-cheek, Canterbury-styled arrangements are common. This becomes evident with pre-recorded voices and sounds of various conversations played over the band's music, giving the album an eccentric appearance.

The high amount of jazz influences on Little Red Record compared to Matching Mole might partly be caused by the new keyboard player, Dave MacRae. His extensive use of Fender Rhodes electric piano adds a very fusion-esque element to the band's sound, at times similar to the one of Soft Machine. Similarly to Dave Sinclair, MacRae is extremely proficient in many diverse musical situations ranging from as far as subtle drone touches to accurate rhythm keyboard play to rapid, pronounced solo parts. Robert Wyatt's drumming is very dense. He finds himself comfortable playing heavy, varied rhythms in odd time signatures. His characteristic vocals also appear, but more often in a spoken word scenario. Although it may not seem like it at first, Bill McCormick's basslines play a crucial role in Matching Mole's sound, building a strong musical foundation for other members. David Sinclair's fuzz organ solos are replaced with those on Phil Miller's guitar, which he plays with an astonishingly precise touch. Brian Eno with his VCS3 synthesizer is responsible for ambient, electronic passages, creating striking, mystic soundscapes.

The album opens with "Starting in the Middle of the Day, We Can Drink Our Politics Away", which features a male choir supported by a repeating piano passage. The lush, surrounding organ sound builds up tension, which is discharged with a loud, rapid jazz jam on "Marchides". The next track, "Nah True's Hole" is based around a repeating pattern with a conversation in the background. In fact, the female voice belongs to Julie Christie, a famous English actress, who is credited as Flora Fidgit. The things she says are erotically-charged and work particularly well with the passage in the background. On "Righteous Rhumba", Robert Wyatt's lyrics talk about the utopian socialist vision and his repellence towards the capitalist world. "Brandy as in Benj" is a jazz-based piece, aimed at displaying the instrumental skill of Matching Mole's members. "Gloria Gloom" starts out with Brain Eno's lengthy synthesizer texture and resolves into Robert Wyatt's politically-charged song. Towards the end, Eno's input comes back, closing the song in a dark, agitating manner. "God Song", the only acoustic piece, sounds a bit like song-oriented tracks from Wyatt's solo releases. "Flora Fidgit" is another jazz jam, in ways similar to what Soft Machine were doing at the time. The album is closed with "Smoke Signal". The track features tense ambient soundscapes with Robert Wyatt's drum solo. Towards the end, one is capable of hearing soft melodies, sounding as if trying to break through, which eventually fade way.

Matching Mole's iconic Little Red Record could best be described as an eccentric political jazz statement with great musicianship. The controversy the band caused with its appearance and title may partly be responsible for its success. The concept and performance is very interesting and original. This is a legendary Canterbury scene album and is without a doubt a must-listen! Recommended!

Report this review (#1572805)
Posted Tuesday, May 31, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars Unique Classic. Close to 5 Stars!

This Fripp-produced album is a unique statement. Loosely framed as a quasi-concept album built around the idea of a 'Little Red Record' (like Mao's Little Red Book) this is an album/band that doesn't take itself too seriously, yet like the Softs, was somewhat revolutionary in a musical sense (and with some thoughtful commentary by Wyatt about socialism too!). It is really too bad it was to be there last studio album, and the last studio album before Wyatt's accident, and there is so much potential here, and Wyatt really shines. The album begins extremely well. An intro with unique (yes!) singing that leads into "Marchides", a short but amazing tune built around fast-cascading electric piano runs up and down the keyboard, with bass and guitar playing slow melodic lines over top, while Wyatt drums up a storm. The rest of side 1 involves three compositions with some complex lines (particularly on McRae's "Brandy as in Benj") but otherwise built around improvisations over repeated chord progressions, with excellent solos from McRea (piano) and McCormick (fuzz bass). "Gloria Gloom", the firs tune on side 2, is amazing - beginning with ethereal synth bells ala Tangerine Dream/Eno but then leading to a Canterbury-style classic of Wyatt's (where he ruminates about the socialist cause). Henry Cow would cover this tune in the middle of their "Beautiful as the Moon..." suite, which can be heard on the Henry Cow 'Concerts' album. Following this is "God Song", which is one of Wyatt's humourous yet simultaneously poignant solo pieces. Excellent and unique (you have to hear it)! (Another version of this song can be heard on the Wyatt solo collection 'Solar Flares Burn for You', which is also excellent). The rest of side 2 of the album involves band improvisations, with "Flora Fidgit" fading out and into "Smoke Signals". This is what the Softs might have sounded like without Ratledge but if Wyatt had remained. I like it better than the first Matching Mole album. I consider this an essential album for anyone who likes or is interested in the Canterbury sound. Very innovative. I actually give it 8.9 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which is 0.1 away from 5 PA stars.

Report this review (#1698732)
Posted Saturday, March 4, 2017 | Review Permalink

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