Soft Machine - Other Doors

Soft Machine, the esteemed UK musical institution, has returned after a five-year hiatus with their latest studio album, "Other Doors." This reflective offering showcases both new material and selected tracks from their extensive historical repertoire, demonstrating the band's enduring passion and talent.

The album features the lineup of John Etheridge on guitars, Theo Travis on saxes, flutes, Fender Rhodes piano, and electronics, Fred Thelonious Baker on fretless bass, and John Marshall on drums. Additionally, they are joined by former bassist Roy Babbington, making two guest appearances on this record.

“Other Doors” presents a collection of captivating compositions characterized by intricate and occasionally complex themes that frequently lead into captivating and spontaneous improvisations. Travis reflects on the process of recording free improvisations, emphasizing the unpredictability and the need to stay in the moment. The musicians' ability to adapt and anticipate each other's next moves results in a fresh and engaging sonic experience.

The album is teeming with fast-moving creativity. From the title track, a composition by Etheridge conceived during the 2021 lockdown, to the hypnotic intricacies of "Crooked Usages" and the probing curiosity of "Fell to Earth," the album showcases the band's signature blend of melodic sophistication and technical prowess. Etheridge's versatile guitar work, complemented by Travis's focused saxophone and flute, along with his atmospheric keyboard textures, create a musical language that is both intellectually stimulating and emotionally resonant.

Tracks like "The Visitor at the Window," "The Stars Apart," and the elegiac "Back in Season" explore reflective and contemplative moods. These pieces interweave meditative percussion, flute, solo guitar, and ethereal electronic and piano clusters, forming captivating atmospheres that are integral to the Soft Machine sound world. The album also pays homage to the band's tradition of reimagining older Soft Machine compositions, including "Joy Of A Toy" by Kevin Ayers and "Penny Hitch" from the 1973 album "Soft Machine Seven." Much of what can be heard here is reminiscent of the earliest of fusion jazz infused albums by the band.

The addition of Fred Baker as the new bassist brings a fresh energy to the group. With his extensive experience in the Canterbury music scene, including collaborations with former Soft Machine members, Baker's inclusion feels like a natural fit. His deep appreciation for the repertoire and dedication to preserving and expanding the music resonate with the band's mission.

The album not only welcomes a new member but also bids farewell to the accomplished drummer John Marshall, whose contribution to Soft Machine spans several decades. At the age of 81, Marshall has decided to retire, making "Other Doors" his final studio album with the group. Marshall's drumming, marked by musicality and a commanding presence, shines brightly throughout the record, bringing his illustrious career to a powerful conclusion.

"Other Doors" to my ears is not only their best work in decades, but also an intense, celebratory, and consistently impressive offering from Soft Machine. The band remains committed to pushing boundaries with integrity and purpose, embodying the quintessential essence of the Soft Machine spirit. As one door closes, another opens, and this album represents yet another significant chapter in the enduring legacy of Soft Machine.

Released June 30, 2023.

 

 Format Info

CD, Vinyl, and Digital Download, Also available on Streamings Services.

 

 

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