The other day I was in the car listening to our local community public radio station WDFH and I heard an amazing piece of music that seemed to go on forever. I had to get out of the car before the end so I didn’t hear what it was. Luckily I knew the DJ and described what I had heard…jazz rock with trombones, Moog synth, flute, pronounced bass line etc. He thought that it was Sun Ra, but I checked and that wasn’t it. I got a hold of the playlist for his show and identified the mystery music as ‘Facelift’ by Soft Machine.
I’d heard the name before and had (or thought I had) a vague idea what they were about. I guess I was wrong because this blew me away and it wasn’t what I was expecting at all. Being a big Zappa fan as well as enjoying the early works of Pink Floyd, you’d think I would have heard Soft Machine before. Luckily for me I had some holiday gift cards burning a hole in my pocket so I hit Barnes & Nobel online and picked up the first four albums.
Pretty soon I was neck-deep in psychedelic-prog-rock-jazz-fusion-weirdness. Now I’m still digesting all of this music so I haven’t come to any intelligent conclusions yet, but I like what I hear.
As I understand it they started life as a straight ahead (if such a thing exists) British psychedelic band and recorded their first self-titled album with Chas Chandler (The Animals) and producer of Frank Zappa and the Mothers’ Freak Out, Tom Wilson while on tour in America . Chandler also became their manager and handled The Jimi Hendrix Experience as well, both bands would tour together later. With each subsequent album the lineup shifted a little bit and the sound shifted dramatically.
Volume Two saw the songs get longer and stranger with less of an emphasis on vocals.
Third was almost all instrumental and the first double LP with each of the four tunes taking up a whole side; it also saw the addition of horns including flute, sax and trombone. The aforementioned ‘Facelift’ is track one side one and is composed out of two live versions edited together and overdubbed with tape loops.
Fourth makes no bones about being a jazz fusion album and the band keeps experimenting with sound. There are fewer horns present this time around, but they make themselves known none the less.
The band continued to change, ultimately it contained no original members…but that’s for another time.
My other recent discovery is just a little different than Soft Machine. It’s Aldious, an all girl Japanese power metal band. Perhaps I should leave that for another post…here’s a taste: