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The Soft Machine

Canterbury Scene

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The Soft Machine Hidden Details album cover
3.87 | 233 ratings | 7 reviews | 17% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2018

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Hidden Details (7:36)
2. The Man Who Waved At Trains (5:00)
3. Ground Lift (5:21)
4. Heart Off Guard (2:29)
5. Broken Hill (3:49)
6. Flight Of The Jett (2:12)
7. One Glove (4:30)
8. Out Bloody Intro (2:41)
9. Out Bloody Rageous, Part 1 (4:56)
10. Drifting White (1:47)
11. Life On Bridges (8:05)
12. Fourteen Hour Dream (6:24)
13. Breathe (5:31)

Total time 60:21

Bonus track on 2018 LP & bandcamp releases:
14. Night Sky (3:19)

Extra bonus tracks on 2018 LP release:
15. Only When (2:37)
16. Green Collared Man (3:14)
17. Ground Lift (Alternative Take) (4:45)
18. Just Add Hock (3:35)
19. SDS (2:20)
20. Round The Corner (3:06)

Line-up / Musicians

- John Etheridge / electric & acoustic guitars, co-producer
- Theo Travis / tenor & soprano saxes, flutes, Fender Rhodes piano, co-producer
- Roy Babbington / bass
- John Marshall / drums, percussion

- Nick Utteridge / wind chimes (13)

Releases information

Artwork: Lasse Hoile

CD Moonjune Records ‎- MJR093 (2018, US)

2xLP Tonefloat ‎- TF185 (2018, Europe) With 7 bonus tracks

Digital album (with a bonus track)

Thanks to mbzr48 for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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Buy THE SOFT MACHINE Hidden Details Music

THE SOFT MACHINE Hidden Details ratings distribution

(233 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(17%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(56%)
Good, but non-essential (20%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

THE SOFT MACHINE Hidden Details reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars The name SOFT MACHINE evokes god status in progressive rock circles, a band so far ahead of their time that they not only were one of the key pioneers in launching the entire progressive rock universe way back in the mid-60s, but singlehandedly created the jazz-fusion niche world which would finally be penned the Canterbury Scene. The band has been somewhat of a spawning ground for some of the jazz-rock world's most gifted musicians as well as having been a nursery ground for countless other bands to have split off from. For one to trace the family tree of this productive rotating collective over the decades is tantamount to rocket science physics equations with band members leaving, returning and new ones continuously adding new idiosyncrasies. The band can claim nearly thirty musicians in all who have come and gone with a whole bunch of related bands when you take the extended close relatives into consideration.

Just check out this impressive list of SOFT MACHINE spinoffs: 2nd Vision, Adiemus, Daevid Allen Trio, Bluesology, Brainville, Centipede, Command All Stars, Elton Dean's Ninesense, The Dedication Orchestra, Gilgamesh, Gong, In Cahoots, Isotope, Matching Mole, Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath, Nucleus, Pip Pyle's Equip'Out, Polysoft, Short Wave, Soft Bounds, Soft Head, Soft Heap, Soft Machine Legacy, Soft Mountain, Soft Works, Symbiosis, Keith Tippett Tapestry Orchestraa, which of course along with Canterbury's other pioneers emerged in the big bang of the entire scene in the nascent proto-prog efforts ofThe Wilde Flowers. And while it may be hard to believe that this band that released their debut all the way back in 1968 is still finding new life, lo and behold an entirely new version of SOFT MACHINE has appeared with their 2018 release HIDDEN DETAILS which emerges 37 years after the last studio album "Land Of Cockayne" and a whopping half century after they forever changed the musical landscape with their eponymously titled psychedelic pop classic debut.

With a release under the original moniker, one would expect this to be an announcement of sorts of some type of reunion album that finds the original members of the classic period getting back together to reclaim their jazzy rock ingenuity of the past. Of course, i'm not really sure if a "classic" lineup has actually ever been established with this band since it seems like every album, studio and live, sports a different lineup as musicians flowed through the band like a never-ending river however personally i would assume that it would include any of the members from the debut to the "Third" era. To assume this, however, you would be mistaken indeed, for the SOFT MACHINE of 2018 is a completely different beast altogether. Well, let me rephrase that, an old beast shedding a part of its moniker to usurp the throne of the progenitors of the original band. Not exactly what i was expecting, however the results aren't nearly as disastrous i had feared. Not by a long shot.

HIDDEN DETAILS, in actuality, is an extension of the related group Soft Machine Legacy which was formed in 2004 as a new variant of yet another related band called Soft Works. This newly coined band in the greater SOFT MACHINE family emerged when guitarist John Etheridge replaced the late great Allan Holdsworth and then released three albums in the forms of the self-titled debut (2006), "Steam" (2007) and "Burden Of Proof" in 2013. Out of the original Softies, only Hugh Hopper was involved on the first two albums before being replaced by Roy Babbington (another 70s member), otherwise the rest of the group consisted of Etheridge on guitars, Theo Travis on sax, flute and Fender Rhodes piano and John Marshall on drums. While not the classic early years, Marshall played drums on "Fifth" and stuck around throughout the rest of the 70s and 80s as did Babbington.

Are you thoroughly confused yet? Well, i am! Just to relay the details of exactly what happened for this new album to come about, the band announced in 2015 that they would tour with the "Legacy" part being dropped out of their name and Soft Machine Legacy minus the Legacy is simply SOFT MACHINE, so in effect HIDDEN DETAILS is R-E-A-L-L-Y, technically speaking, the fourth Soft Machine Legacy album in disguise, JUST to make things in this Canterbury universe even M-O-R-E confusing. And you thought it was only the music that was complex? Well, the proof is in the pudding that absolutely nothing is easy to figure out in this slice of jazz-rock infused world. LOL! Enough of all that! How's the friggin' music you wonder. In short, very good! In fact, so much better than i ever could've hoped for.

Whether you like the name change or not, these guys somehow manage to harness that ineffable SOFT MACHINE sound from the past and embark on a modern day fusionist journey that breathes new life into a rather infertile nook of the progressive rock universe, all the while keeping it firmly grounded in the the contemporary world that animates new creativity into a classic sound all the while brandishing a slick modern production job. Right from the hard hitting opening title track, this quartet elegantly captures the classic SOFT MACHINE zeitgeist with crazily laid out time signatures, heavy sax, bass and drum action as well as a rock guitar sound that the early Softies eschewed. Theo Travis proves to be a veritable brass blower as his technically infused playing reminds of the greats such as Elton Dean's best performances only in a more streamlined and controlled manner.

While these guys, who are well into their 70s i believe, crank out the title track as effortlessly as they would've decades ago, it's not just the technical workouts that bedazzle the listener on HIDDEN DETAILS. The secret sauce is in the veritable smorgasbord variety of the tracks which even include the unthinkable reworkings of "The Man Waved At Trains" (from "Bundles") and "Out Bloody Rageous" (from "Third) which prove that this current SOFT MACHINE lineup was quite confident with their abilities to carry the torch by taking that last leap of faith and dropping the "Legacy" ending of their band name. The former track is a flute rich jazzified slow rocker that triumphantly engages in all the expected jazzy timings and sweet sensuality of a flute based melodic drive. While the latter captures the expected "Third" era warmth but adds a much silkier and smooth spaced out version that takes some of the aggressive drive out of the original. While being faithful to the original in spirit, these modern day renditions are quite an achievement.

Perhaps the greatest triumphs of HIDDEN DETAILS comes from the more complex atmospheric pieces such as the the title track and the angular avant-garde motifs of "Ground Lift" and "Flight Of The Jett" which exude a greater sum of the parts that takes you into an entirely different realm where the sound stabs paint a pointillistic reality on the other side of perception. Masterfully executed and uniquely interwoven into the overall fabric of the album. On the other side of the spectrum lies the immediately more catchy and perceptible melodic (in jazz fashion) tracks such as "Broken Hill" and "Fourteen Hour Dream," the latter of which has a downright danceable groovy bass riff that is accompanied by a soul massaging flute performance. As the album ends with the ambient "Breathe," i take this as breathing a sigh of relief as i just listened to an album that i loved despite having every fear that it would be some irrelevant retreading of the past with nothing but recycled bits regurgitated in a nauseating disrespectful fashion. Wow. I couldn't have been more mistaken.

Progressive rock is a persistent beast and while bands like SOFT MACHINE have never been the most commercially successful, their musical maturity has earned them a high place in the greater rock universe in terms of respect and durability. While the classic combo of musicians like Mike Rutledge, Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers and Hugh Hopper may only be distant memories for long time prog lovers and mere encyclopedic entries for those of us who weren't around to experience the initial lineups of the great SOFT MACHINE classics, it's reassuring to know that a bunch of stalwart virtuosos of this magnitude are keeping the Canterbury torch burning. HIDDEN DETAILS is a testament to not only to the SOFT MACHINE "Legacy" but to the entire Canterbury Scene actually. While this one will not usurp the throne of classics like "Third" as top dogs in my world, this one does inspire me to fill the gap and investigate all of the other spinoff bands that the members on this album have played in. This was, indeed, one of the greatest surprises of 2018!

Review by kev rowland
5 stars There can be few British bands that can say that they have had as much impact on music as the mighty Softs, and here a mere 37 years after their last studio album they are back with a new one. Originally formed in 1966, with their debut album in 1968, they have continued to be at the cutting edge of fusion and have had some incredible musicians pass through their ranks. The band officially disbanded in 1978, then reformed briefly in 1981 and then 1984 before returning as Soft Ware in 1999, which in turn became Soft Works, before morphing into Soft Machine Legacy in 2004, and then at the end of 2015 they decided to drop the word "Legacy". But given that guitarist John Etheridge, bassist Roy Babbington and drummer John Marshall were all in the same line-up(s) in the Seventies, they have a more than valid claim to the name. The only member of the band who wasn't involved back then is Theo Travis, who provides sax, flute and Fender Rhodes. But, he joined Soft Machine Legacy as long ago as 2006, when he replaced Elton Dean after he had passed away.

Anyone who admits to enjoying Canterbury progressive rock or fusion will have multiple Soft Machine albums in their collection, and this one fits right in. John Etheridge is an incredible guitarist, and it takes someone very special indeed to step into the shoes of Allan Holdsworth, not once but twice. He is lyrical, dramatic, restrained yet over the top, simple yet complex, allowing the music to take him where it will. Every musician is an absolute master of his craft, and they push the envelope in so many ways. Jazz, prog, fusion, call it whatever you like but this is intricately crafted music that is both awe inspiring yet inviting, eclectic yet so very easy to get inside of, and the more time spent with it the greater the rewards. Some of these guys are nearly 80 years old now, yet show no sign at all of slowing down. This is an essential purchase.

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Some pockets of Canterbury sound fans seem somewhat dismissive of this latest work to appear under the Soft Machine banner, 2018's `Hidden Details'. While it may really be just a further extension of the Soft Machine Legacy group from the last fifteen years or so, three of the four musicians here actually played on Soft Machine's `Softs' from 1976, so if you're a fan of that line- up and era of the legendary group, or you're simply a lover of sh*t-hot jazz-rock/fusion playing in general, there's tons to appreciate here.

One thing that instantly stands out about `Hidden Details' is the way it dips into numerous styles from so many periods of forty five plus-years of Soft Machine music, with the exception of the psychedelic pop early years. Opener `Hidden Details' is a dusty slow-burn smoulder of Roy Babbington's murmuring bass, John Marshall's rambunctious drumming, Theo Travis' lively blaring sax and John Etheridge's splintering runaway guitar snarl. Weeping and gnashing sax tendrils and grinding guitar distortion seductively seep out of `Ground Lift', and `Heart Off Guard' is a stark acoustic lament with sorrowful sax. The shimmering `Broken Hill' has lightly bluesy guitar ringing laced with mystery and unease, and `Flight Of The Jett' is restless ambience.

`One Glove' has a dirty bluesy chugging swagger, `Drifting White' is a sobering late-night electric guitar reflection, and the noisy `Life On Bridges' shambles with sax drowsiness, wailing guitar tantrums and thrashing drum spasms. `Fourteen Hour Dream' embraces the lighter Caravan-like Canterbury approach with its sprightly energy and sweetly trilling flute, and closer `Breathe' is a softly blowing meditation of placid cooling flute and slowly unfurling hazy effects.

Two pieces are reworkings of earlier SM pieces - `Bundles' `The Man Who Waved At Trains' is reimagined with sparkling electric piano raindrops before slinking into a tranquil flute rumination in the tradition of the most chilled Canterbury moments, and a portion of `Third's `Out Bloody Rageous' reveals dreamy Fender Rhodes piano glistenings and electronic spirals before dashing through bustling and infectious sax driven themes

`Hidden Details' never sounds like lukewarm or uninspired rehashes of past Soft Machine moments, and it's even more satisfying that this current line-up are putting out masterful and colourful new music that is equally as vital and valid as anything else in their earlier vast catalogue. Canterbury fans are spoiled to have such first rate musicians still active in both live performances and in the studio, and it's a thrill to discover that `Hidden Details' is one of the standout releases of progressive rock-related music in 2018.

Four and a half stars.

Review by Mirakaze
COLLABORATOR Eclectic Prog Team
2 stars At some point every musician has got to realize that they're too old to keep going. Having seen the Soft Machine live on the tour in support of this album, I can confirm that this time has not yet come for the current band members who still somehow keep the spark going at their old age. Unfortunately, this spark does not carry over to the recording studio. Forgettable themes, lifeless uninspired improvisations (Theo Travis's playing is especially disappointing) and two re-recordings of old Soft Machine songs, one pointless and one far inferior, that just make you wish you were listening to the originals again instead. Not an essential release by any means.
Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars More than a few eyebrows were raised when the SOFT MACHINE LEGACY lineup returns 5 years later calling themselves SOFT MACHINE. Babbington and Marshall have been part of SOFT MACHINE since 1973's "Seven" and John Etheridge jumped on board for "Softs" but playing with them live before that when Holdsworth left. So they are certainly legit using the name and the music here to my ears sounds more like SOFT MACHINE than SOFT MACHINE LEGACY. I have enjoyed this record right from the first spin and if not for tracks 4 and 5 I'm thinking of a higher rating. Those two tracks are good but too laid back and mellow in my opinion.

This is so good though, I am a little surprised. Theo Travis the young guy composed most of the material plus they cover a couple of old SOFT MACHINE tracks. Travis feels like the new Karl Jenkins to be honest adding electric piano to the sax and flute. The cover art is very cool and done by Lasse Hoile. The album was recorded by the legendary Jon Hiseman who sadly passed before it was released hence the dedication "In memory of Jon Hiseman a wonderful musician who engineered the album so brilliantly. Thanks to him and Barbara who took such good care of us during the recording." Man John Marshall is looking old, I actually just looked up his age only to find someone who released a statement saying Marshall had just passed. Hope that's wrong but he retired after the followup to this "Other Doors" while Babbington retired after this album guesting one last time on "Other Doors" on two tracks with his buddy John Marshall.

Oh the music? I am surprised and so impressed at how experimental some of this is. Surprised at Etheridge letting his hair down so often. Marshall just sounding so random much of the time. And Theo with the flute and sax of course including some dissonant and inventive moves but his electric piano play is something I really appreciate bringing "Seven" to mind. A top five includes the opener, the title track and there is some intensity here. Nasty guitar in fact around 4 1/2 minutes in. The two SOFT MACHINE covers are awesome and they help make this special. They being "The Man Who Waved At Trains" and "Out Bloody Rageous(Part 1)". This album ends strongly with those last three tracks and "Life On Bridges" is my favourite track on here and the longest at 8 minutes. This one and the next "Fourteen Hour Dream" round out my top five. There is some otherworldly music on here too my friends including the closer "Breathe" and the "Out Bloody Intro".

This album and Rik's review of "Other Doors" has me tracking down the most recent SOFT MACHINE effort "Other Doors" which could be the last SOFT MACHINE record and that would be a shame.

Latest members reviews

4 stars I'm really glad I bought this record. The pros for me echo previous reviews - these old guys really can still wail and the music is energetic and lively - it fits right in with the Soft Machine canon that hadn't seen a shiny studio release since the early eighties. This music is welcome indeed ... (read more)

Report this review (#2077241) | Posted by WFV | Tuesday, November 20, 2018 | Review Permanlink

4 stars How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Soft Machine Never thought it would happen again but here we are. 18 years into the 21st Century and look at that! Brand new Soft Machine! Firstly, you probably already know, but this is an album best played on a stereo system as opposed to speakers ... (read more)

Report this review (#2042041) | Posted by AZF | Monday, October 8, 2018 | Review Permanlink

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