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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Soft Machine

Drop

Review by Gary Hill

I struggled with this review. It’s not that I don’t respect the musicianship. Clearly I do. It’s not that I don’t like Soft Machine. I do. In fact, I enjoy most of their discs a lot. The problem is, I’m not a big fan of real free form Rock In Opposition style jamming. I’m someone who needs some real melodies or themes emerging in music to kind of anchor it. To me a lot of this is just too free form and feels like one long jam. There are some moments that climb up out of that, though. I would say that for people enjoy that kind of freeform stuff, I’m sure this is great. It’s just not really my kind of thing.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Neo Caliban Grides

Horns open this. Then it turns towards some particularly heavy and noisy free form fusion jamming. They are some moments that lean towards space rock and some of the bass playing is particularly noteworthy, but more than anything else, this is like freeform chaos.  It runs straight into the next number.

All White

And, the chaos continues. The first parts of this feel no different than the previous tune. Eventually there is a bit more of a consistency that seems to be trying to emerge, though. Around the two and a half minute mark it seems to settle into some serious jazz melodies and directions. It eventually drops down and they sort of segue into the next cut.

Slightly All The Time
Here we get more chaotic free form jazz weirdness. The mellower section that opens it, though is more coherent. As they gradually bring up the intensity and the jamming it shifts towards the more un-planned. By around the two and a half minute mark, though, some semblance of pattern and melody emerges for a while. It gets more crazed and free form from there, though. This thing runs over thirteen minutes in length and gets pretty intense at times. Some spacey elements move it into the next piece.
Drop

The title track opens with spacey keys that call to mind Pink Floyd a bit. It works towards more jazzy sounds as it continues. While it feels rather freeform, it also seems less chaotic than some of the other stuff here. Around the two and a half minute mark some killer space jamming takes it. In fact, this section is the most compelling of the whole set thus far. More chaos ensues before the drums eventually take control near the end of the piece. Those drums alone move into the next one.

M.C.

Drums and sultry, spacey jazz open here. Eventually the more chaotic elements again take over. The percussion really drives this thing, but it’s just very free-form.

Out-Bloody-Rageous

As this comes out of the previous one, it definitely has more developed themes and some great instrumental interplay. That elevates this opening section as another of the best passages here. This does get a bit chaotic, but it seems to work out and resolve into more thematic sounds in each instance. I’d have to rate this as one of the best cuts because it seems to make more sense than a lot of the other stuff here. Mind you, that’s for people with my mindset who need thematic elements in music. Chaos does ensue later, but even then it’s more controlled than on some of the other songs. It segues into the next tune.

As If

Loud jamming concludes the music from the previous tune. Then a rather ominous bass element emerges to move the cut in some dramatic and rather mellow directions. Although this gets a louder element as other instruments work around in the foreground, that main rhythm section elements remains as glue to hold this together. That makes this one another of the more constant and consistent pieces here. It also makes it one of the highlights. There are definitely some space meets jazz elements to this thing. There is one burst of King Crimson like chaos near the end. Then a drum solo segues it into the next cut.

Dark Swing

This cut is an extended and bombastic drum solo. Although I’m usually not a big fan of drum solos, it works well here to bring some variety to the proceedings.

Intropigling
This is less than a minute long and basically an extension of the drum solo with some chaotic instrumentation added over the top.
Pigling Bland

Some real melody and thematic elements emerge over the top of this thing as it opens. They jam on this one pretty well, but it’s still one of the more cohesive pieces here. The rhythm section heralds a shift to a new fast paced jam later. That one works more in rocking directions.

 
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