Hugh Hopper

Carousel

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The Hugh Hopper Band has been the ex-Soft Machine bassist's most fusion-oriented outfit of the 1990s. Carousel was the band's second release for the Cuneiform label (the first was Meccano Pelorus in 1991, but they also recorded for Ponk and Voiceprint) and their first and only studio venture. The album opens with a very straightforward number, "Shuffle Demons," maybe Hopper's most mainstream composition ever. The reggae feel of "Sinister Toilet" pursues in the same positive direction. Guitarist Patrice Meyer contributes one of the most interesting pieces, "Carousel": out of chaos rises a cyclic riff sped up and constantly transposed into a higher register, giving the impression of a carousel turning faster and faster. Things get freer and darker on two collective improvisations, but the overall feeling of the album is best epitomized by "Lock, Stock and Barrel": it starts on an almost fanfare-like theme that eventually leaves to make room for a swinging tune with Caribbean overtones and an inspired solo by guest trombonist Robert Jarvis. Carousel is a "feel-good" fusion album. Nothing is very complicated, the licks stay catchy, but the result lacks the intensity found in Hopper-era Soft Machine or the bassist's later project Hughscore. It might be Hopper's most accessible release.

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