I feel cheated. I was supposed to be riding outdoors today but, NOOOOOOOOOOOO! Mother Nature wouldn’t allow it and just had to piss down with the rain and bullshit. So here I am on a Saturday afternoon, trapped on a spin bike for another 90 minutes in a gym full of women (and, believe me, that’s not as great as you might initially think). To keep myself distracted then I’m listening to the ‘Third‘ album by Soft Machine.
This is the 3rd album by the band from Canterbury, originally released in 1970 as a double LP, with each side of the original vinyl consisting of a single, long composition.
Perfect for a long spin, right?
Soft Machine plunged deeper into jazz fusion and contemporary electronic music on this pivotal release, the type present on Miles Davis‘ ‘Bitches Brew‘, which was released just a few months earlier. Rolling Stone magazine lists the album at #40 of the greatest Prog Rock albums of all time.
It’s a double album of stunning music, with each side devoted to one composition – two by Mike Ratledge, and one each by Hopper and Wyatt, with substantial help from a number of backup musicians, including Canterbury mainstays Elton Dean and Jimmy Hastings. The Ratledge songs come closest to fusion jazz, although this is fusion laced with tape loop effects and hypnotic, repetitive keyboard patterns. Hugh Hopper’s ‘Facelift‘ kind of recalls ‘21st Century Schizoid Man‘ by King Crimson, although it’s more complex, with several quite dissimilar sections, making it even more out-bloody-rageous than the cool-ambient freakout of ‘Out-Bloody-Rageous‘. The pulsing rhythms, chaotic horn and keyboard sounds, and dark drones on ‘Facelift‘ predate some of what Hopper did as a solo artist later (this song was actually culled from two live performances in 1970).
In truth, it is hard to explain this sound without hearing it, but, if you are in to bands like King Crimson, Frank Zappa and Mahavishnu Orchestra you will easily appreciate this music. It is predominantly instrumental with a lot of odd time signatures and driven
by saxophone and organ.
Thankfully, the spin was only intended to be nice and easy so the lack of hard-driving pulsing rhythms on the album aimed at getting your blood a-pumping and legs a-spinnin’ didn’t matter so much.
The only real difficult thing with this afternoon’s workout was working hard not to notice all the girls trying hard not to notice me not noticing them.
I’ve never been so happy to get off the bike and into the pool before.