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Soft Machine - 2013 - "Burden of Proof"

(55:09, Moonjune Records)


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TRACK LIST:

1.  Burden of Proof 5:51
2.  Voyage Beyond Seven 4:53
3.  Kitto 1:50
4.  Pie Chart 5:07
5.  JPS 1:03
6.  Kings and Queens 6:46
7.  Fallout 6:59
8.  Going Somewhere Canorous 1:13
9.  Black and Crimson 5:05
10. The Brief 2:27
11. Pump Room 5:19
12. Green Cubes 5:33
13. They Landed on a Hill 3:03

LINEUP:

John Etheridge  guitars 
Roy Babbington  bass 
John Marshall  drums 
Theo Travis  sax, flute; el. piano

Prolusion. The UK band SOFT MACHINE LEGACY is the longest lasting of a succession of bands formed by former members of the legendary UK band Soft Machine. This particular continuation of The Soft Machine was formed in 2004, and have since then performed live on a number of occasions, documented on three CDs and one DVD, and from 2006 and onwards they have been recording and releasing new material as well. "Burden of Proof" is their third studio production, released by Moonjune Records in 2013.

Analysis. While the line-up of Soft Machine Legacy have changed a few times over the years, mostly due to natural causes, any constellation of this band will feature accomplished musicians. Veterans who don't really have anything to prove anymore, perhaps with the exception of what they want to achieve themselves as creative and recording artists. You expect quality from a band of this type and they deliver as expected in that department. How much you enjoy it comes down to personal taste and that alone, as the musicianship is excellent as are the quality of the recordings as well as mix and production. On a mostly jazz rock-oriented production we're presented with thirteen creations that cover quite an expansive stylistic territory. Most everyone will find something to enjoy on this album, although I suspect that quite a few will encounter escapades they will prefer to skip as well. The aforementioned personal taste is the deciding factor for that. For my own sake I'm not that keen on the more free improvisation-oriented excursions, tracks like JSP and Fallout left me fairly cold due to that. Those with a keen interest in material of that nature should enjoy those immensely however. Somewhat more intriguing to my taste, but sharing many similar features, we have with Going Somewhere Canorous, The Brief and Green Cubes. Three more creations that document the experimental, improvisational sides of Soft Machine Legacy's repertoire to perfection, and most likely to be regarded as some of the brightest shining gems on this disc by those into this type of jazz rock. Personally I was much more taken with the band when they explored the arguably more accessible sides of their sound. The jazz-oriented title track with alternating guitar and saxophone soloing on top of an ebb and flow circulating rhythms foundation, the blend of dramatic arrangements with gentler, resonating tones and subtle, almost ambient dreamlike moods of Voyage Beyond Seven, the brilliant sparse, melancholic standalone guitar journey named Kitto, and the jazz-tinged blues composition Pie Chart a strong and compelling opening four chapters on this CD. The dreamladen, pastoral landscapes explored on Kings and Queens is another clear favorite of mine, a perfect piece of tranquil, instrumental beauty. In the true perfection department I also feel that Black and Crimson merits a mention, with a compelling bass guitar motif featuring resonating electric piano, supplementing a superb guitar solo alternating with sax soloing, supported by gentler guitar details, the electric piano given room to shine later on before all soloing instruments combine for a neat conclusion. The tightly controlled blues rock alternating with expressive sax-dominated sequences of Pump Room also merits a special mention, the compelling guitar riff used for the earliest phases of the blues oriented sequences on this composition being one of the most compelling I've heard in quite some time, and the alternating controlled and expressive sequences are an effective blend of contrasting elements. At last I'll need to mention They Landed on a Hill, concluding this production in a light toned, elegant manner with emphasis on resonating, delicate tones by guitar and piano.

Conclusion. Soft Machine Legacy have made themselves a strong third studio album with "Burden of Proof": excellent musicianship throughout, with an attention to subtle details many artists could learn a lot from. The sheer diversity in style will make this one an uneven experience for many, but those with a taste for instrumental jazz rock will find plenty to enjoy on this one, and those among them who are thrilled by improvised material with more of a free-form expression just as much as by more tightly controlled and performed compositions should find this CD to be a most thrilling experience indeed.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: October 2, 2013
The Rating Room


Related Links:

Moonjune Records
Soft Machine


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