Soft Machine

Six

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The Soft Machine were many things to many people, but to most, the real Soft Machine ceased to exist when founder Robert Wyatt left to work on his conspicuously titled Matching Mole project. This departure is generally credited to the Soft Machine's creative advance away from prog rock and toward jazz fusion. Three years and three records after Wyatt's departure, this creative motion was in full sail, and the release of Six cemented the band in their distant station beyond the gravity of anything that resembled rock and its spacious, cutting-edge sonics and more symmetrical rhythms. The jazz era that began on Fourth and continued through the '70s mutates slightly on Six, from the free improvisational structures used frequently on prior releases into a somewhat more constrained fusion design. This is due largely to new member Karl Jenkins, who makes a mighty impact on the Soft Machine's sound with his sax playing and songwriting -- and who later took creative control over the group, bringing in several guitarists to solidify a fusion sound. Half live and half studio album, Six will never interest classic-era stalwarts, but Jenkins and drummer John Marshall lead old-timers Mike Ratledge and Hugh Hopper through some nifty fusion exercises that fans of the genre (and obscure '70s music of every kind) might find very enjoyable.

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