Originally released in 1973 by the Soft Machine bassist shortly after the band had lost eccentric drummer/vocalist Robert Wyatt and had begun their evolution into a respectable (and somewhat predictable) jazz-rock ensemble, this was Hopper's attempt at something more experimental. As he reports in his amusing CD notes, the record label CBS was all in favor of his solo excursion until he let them know what he had in mind, at which point they declined to pay even for studio time, so Hopper had to take out a bank loan to make the recording -- which says a lot for Hopper's belief in his artistic vision, and not much at all for the musical (as opposed to financial) vision of CBS. Hopper's 1984 is inspired by George Orwell's totalitarian fantasy of the same name, and the two longest tracks, "Miniluv" and "Miniplenty," feature Hopper's multitracked solo work on bass, percussion, mellophone, loops and electronics, with only John Marshall, the Soft Machine drummer, contributing additional percussion on the second piece. This music had an appropriately eerie, ominous quality, with heavy use of chattering tape loops, reverberating bass drones and woozy, sometimes harsh slide work on bass guitar strings. Terry Riley's early cyclical trance music was a large influence on Hopper at the time of this recording, and there are also strong echoes of "Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band," for example, in the intertwined, looped sax lines in "Minitrue." However, several of the shorter selections on this CD, with the addition of various saxophones, trombones and other horns, are inexplicably tied to a rather twisted and ponderous R&B groove. Hopper suggests, retrospectively, that these several pieces may have represented the "normal" citizens in Orwell's dystopia, who were nonetheless a little "bent" by their soul-destroying environment. However, it is just as likely that Hopper was simply indulging his admitted fondness for James Brown. 1984 was always a musical oddity, and it may be a little incoherent and self-indulgent at times, but it has held up well over time, and still contains music of great interest.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by William Tilland