The band Soft Machine has been around since 1966 and took the name from William S. Burrough’s 1961 book. The band is considered to be a pioneer in prog, and especially within the so-called Canterbury prog. A prog with many elements of jazz and often with highly skilled musicians. Soft Machine has had countless musicians in their rows, and in addition countless names actually. Soft Machine Legacy, Soft Works, Soft Bounds, Soft Mountain, Soft Heap and Polysoft. In the beginning of the career, Soft Machine actually made psychedelic pop music, but in the 1970s a paradigm shift came true. Suddenly, Soft Machine was a band that played a very cool jazz prog.
Hidden Details is a new studio album of Soft Machine, recorded at the late great Jon Hiseman’s Temple Studio in Surrey, England, last December 2017, and it will be released in September 2018. Actually exactly 50 years since the release of the band’s 1968 debut album The Soft Machine. Limited and highly collectible vinyl edition of only 200 colored vinyl (orange, blue and tour edition orange & blue marbled). Hidden Dreams can be listened to at their Bandcamp.
Hidden Details is very much the product of an active, contemporary sounding outfit striking out with its own agenda. Though informed by the past, the music here is neither weighed down nor beholden to it. Animated with the same ineffable and inquisitive spirit that has always made this group throughout its fifty years such a compelling experience, it good to have a new Soft Machine with us in 2018. The yearning tenderness of Heart Off Guar and the come-down reveries of Broken Hill and Drifting White showcase the more intimate aspects of Soft Machine’s personality while in contrast.
One Glove gives the more pugilistic side of John Etheridge’s playing an outing. The terse angularities of the title track and Life On Bridges highlight a fearless disposition, as does the buzzsaw interplay heard during Ground Lift and Flight Of The Jett both featuring Roy Babbington’s decisive interventions. The surging lyricism of Fourteen Hour Dream flirts with an almost popish sensibility, underscoring the sense that this is a quartet that is fundamentally at ease with itself. The return of what some older fans of the band have called cosmic tinkles – the appearance of layers of cyclical electric piano motifs – is especially welcome.
Their brief manifestation on The Man Who Waved at Trains and Third-era, Out-Bloody-Rageous, both stone-cold Mike Ratledge-composed classics, adds an extra spacey dimension to the overall sound. Travis use of looping technology with his flutes creates its own beguiling world and can be heard to powerful effect on the beautiful and enigmatic Breathe where his hovering notes are underpinned by Marshall’s oblique yet atmospheric percussion.