[13 February 2008]
Soft Machine was a legendary British psychedelic band—akin to Pink Floyd but much more underground—that slowly morphed into something more like progressive rock and then something more like jazz-rock fusion. Where in this line of progression original Softs fans got disinterested is a personal matter, but the new band that resulted was pretty terrific in its own way. The fusion records (now devoid of vocals) released in the mid-70s could be beautiful and heavy at the same time, and they retained the sense of originality that the oldSoft Machine owned. Soft Machine Legacy is a quartet of Softs alums who are successfully extending the work begun 40 years ago. John Etheridge (guitar), Theo Travis (reeds and loops), Hugh Hopper (bass), and John Marshall (drums) here serve up capable electric jazz framed by circling melodies, fuzzed out bass lines, and hypnotic percussion. Steam‘s three improvised tracks are most exciting developments, songs that suggest that there is plenty of room left in electric jazz for excitement and edge. On the other hand, “Chloe and the Pirates” is a rerecording of a track from Six a tune from late the Soft Machine’s classic period. The saxophonist Travis is the newest member of the band, and it’s pleasing to report that he delivers the most wonderful of the new tunes, a fascinating piece that creatively uses overdubbing, “Anything to Anywhere”.