Exposé Online banner

Soft Machine — Hidden Details
(Moonjune MJR093, 2018, CD / DL)

by Jon Davis, 2018-12-03:

Hidden Details Cover art

Hardcore fans can argue all they want about whether this is really Soft Machine or not, but it’s kind of a moot point. The Softs went through so many changes in their original run that defining the band even then was a point of contention for some. Musically, the only ones who should have any problem with the attribution of Hidden Details are those curmudgeons who think the real Soft Machine died after Volume Two when they moved away from eccentric psychedelia. From that point onward, it was a jazz-rock band with a fondness for riff-based tunes, odd meters, and a distinctive way of blending composition and improvisation, and this new incarnation is firmly in that tradition. There’s pretty much always been a sax player and keyboards, and sometimes guitar, and to my ear there’s nothing on Hidden Details that couldn’t have also appeared at various spots in the band’s past. “Flight of the Jett” hearkens back to Five, with free-form drumming and spaced-out electric piano. “One Glove” feels a bit like “Hazard Profile” on Bundles. Plus they actually revisit two tunes from the past, “The Man Who Waved at Trains” and “Out-Bloody-Rageous.” Drummer John Marshall needs no validation as a key factor in the band’s history, and Roy Babbington’s performance here is a pointed reminder that Hugh Hopper wasn’t the only great bassist to be in Soft Machine. John Etheridge proves a worthy holder of the on-again-off-again guitar presence in the band. And while Theo Travis is perhaps less edgy and eccentric on the sax than Elton Dean, he steps up and does some of his best playing ever, as well as contributing several great new tunes and adding a flute into the mix. This album is a gem from start to finish, and one of my favorite jazz albums of the year.


by Peter Thelen, 2018-09-10:

From Soft Machine to Soft Ware to Soft Works to Soft Machine Legacy, and now finally back to the band’s original name Soft Machine, the one constant with this band is personnel changes. In fact in their original run from 1967 to 1981, I think every studio album featured someone new coming in or someone leaving, sometimes even mid-album, so there was never a definitive lineup, but three of the members in the current edition of the band have been there since the 70s. More than anything, Soft Machine is, was and always will be a musical concept, a feeling, and an ideal, which is here on Hidden Details in full force. In order of seniority, the current edition of the band features drummer John Marshall and bassist Roy Babbington, who first appeared with the band in 1972 (side two of Fifth), guitarist John Etheridge, who entered the Machine in 1976 with Softs, and last but not least keyboard and woodwind player Theo Travis, who has been with them for about ten years, following the untimely passing of Elton Dean. Like every version of the band before them, this group captures that unique essence that has been Soft Machine from the beginning. Every member contributes compositions to the set, and even former member Mike Ratledge contributes through the band’s interpretations of his original material “Out-Bloody-Rageous” and “The Man Who Waved at Trains” from Third and Bundles respectively. Highlights? Where to start? There are so many, like the spacy group-composed improv “Flight of the Jett” to its follow up, “One Glove,” composed by Etheridge, a gritty rocker that’s remininscent of his days with Darryl Way’s Wolf in parts. The opening title track is Travis’ doing, another power jazz-rocker with some fabuluos sax soloing that gets the wheels turning for all that follows it. “Heart off Guard” is a beatiful acoustic guitar piece, showcasing Etheridge in a completely different light, with a powerful sax solo in the final minute. Travis’ “Life on Bridges” comes out of the gate with a strong melody, after which the other members join in improv style and turn it into a wild ride through crazyland, with some spirited solo trading from Etheridge and Travis until its eight-minute conclusion. There are thirteen cuts here, every one worthy of mention, and the last of them is the Travis / Marshall penned “Breathe,” a beautiful ambient loop piece with a soft touch of percussion that all flows around the listener like a warm blanket on a winter morning. I think that this latest effort meets and exceeds expectations for all the old fans like myself, and if you’ve never heard Soft Machine before (where have you been?) this is certainly a great place to start. Fifty years after their first album, the band has done a great job bringing that essence into the present.


Filed under: New releases , 2018 releases

Related artist(s): Soft Machine, Soft Machine Legacy / Soft Works, Theo Travis, John Etheridge, John Marshall

More info
http://softmachine-moonjune.bandcamp.com/album/hidden-details-hd

Latest news

2020-07-06
Ennio Morricone RIP – Famed composer Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91. The creator of scores for more than 500 movies, some of his works have become the most recognizable sounds in the history of cinema. His soundtracks for Sergio Leone's Westerns made from 1964 to 1971, are iconic landmarks in film music, but he also composed for dramas, comedies, and other genres. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2016 for The Hateful Eight. » Read more

2020-06-14
Keith Tippett RIP – One of the giants of British jazz has left us. Keith Graham Tippetts, known professionally as Keith Tippett, died today at the age of 72. His work from the late 60s into the 70s and beyond includes some of the greatest jazz produced in the UK, and stands as an impressive oevre to this day. » Read more

2020-05-15
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more

2020-05-14
Jorge Santana RIP – Jorge Santana, noted guitarist, leader of the band Malo and brother to Carlos Santana, died on May 14 at the age of 68. Jorge and Carlos worked together on a number of occasions, though Jorge's career was centered around Malo, solo work, and with Fania All-Stars. » Read more

2020-05-06
Florian Schneider RIP – Florian Schneider, one of the founders of the pioneering electronic group Kraftwerk, has died at the age of 73. Co-founder Ralf Hütter announced that his bandmate had passed away from cancer after a brief illness. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Luminescent Orchestrii - Luminescent Orchestrii – Luminescent Orchestrii is not the first band to combine Eastern European folk music with punkish energy – Sviraj, Reptile Palace Orchestra, the Ukrainians and others have been there before – but...  (2004) » Read more

Steve Roach / Erik Wøllo - Stream of Thought – Roach should be well known to Exposé readers, and in fact Wøllo should as well – he’s a Norwegian guitarist who, at least these days almost always relies on elusive techniques that make his...  (2009) » Read more

Ozone Player - Frozen Paint on Boiling Canvas – What an opener for an album! I’m talking about “The Sprawl.” Fine sounds, imaginative sequencing, nimble-fingered playing, stunning composition. Ozone Player is a composer from...  (2006) » Read more

Banzai - Hora Nata – This Flemish quintet have only one album to their name, the 1974 LP Hora Nata, which has become legendary among symphonic progressive collectors. The band is led by the organ playing of Peter Torfs....  (1996) » Read more

Pineapple Thief - Variations on a Dream – I have to admit to being behind the curve on Pineapple Thief, though they are clearly the “next big thing” on the prog scene. To my mind, however, they are following a bit too closely in...  (2004) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues