Other Doors by Soft Machine

Release date: June 30, 2023
Label: MoonJune Records

Special things happen when musicians settle down to play together. Either when following a score, an agreed sequence, or head, or simply diving off the deep end. The moment they start playing, they enter into an intimate exchange of connection and communication.” Sid Smith’s opening liner notes says it all.

Whether you see a band or an artist working on a piece of music, something magical is about to happen. There’s the chemistry, the vibes, the teamwork, and the beauty that brings it together.

With Soft Machine’s new album entitled Other Doors, the sound is compelling and passionate. Etheridge, Travis, Baker, and Marshall are keeping the legacy of the Soft Machine’s legacy alive. For example, the quartet return to the psychedelic period, paying homage not just to Mike Ratledge but the late, great Kevin Ayers as they walk down the park in a Monk-sque Caribbean tone on ‘Joy of a Toy’.

Babbington makes a guest appearance with additional bass textures between ‘Penny Hitch’ and the marching fanfare ‘Now! Is The Time’ with its shuffling blues motif by going down the slide, one by one to have a bit of fun in the music. Meanwhile, on the title-track, John and Theo clash with each other to add that fuel to the fire for at least 50 seconds before going down towards the mystic caves for some mysterious handiwork Etheridge goes into.

Then they head back into the boxing ring for a brief moment as Theo lays down some smoothing bossa-nova arrangements. John then returns to the crystal caves once more as he goes up and down the stairs to get an echo-like response for a breather on ‘Whisper Back’ before Baker lends in this smoky night inside those jazz clubs to revisit the late ‘50s, early ‘60s to see ‘The Stars Apart’.

‘The Visitor at the Window’ sees Theo going for his flute and reflecting a meditated guidance that unfolds in front of our speakers. Each of the members go through a psychological prayer before making the walk home, easy peasy. But just as they get close to the house, Theo enters this dark, evil passageway throughout his electronics as he transforms into the forms of Terry Riley and Jack Nitzche with ‘Maybe Never’.

We don’t want to forget John Marshall, who at age 82, is still kicking ass on the drums. Whether it’s his work with Nucleus with Ian Carr, John Surman, Affinity’s Linda Hoyle, and of course Soft Machine since he joined the group in 1972, he still has that energy inside his human heart.

Listening to the tenth track ‘Fell to Earth’ it first sounds like Creedence’s ‘Born on the Bayou’ mixed in with the early Floyd’s ambient sounds of ‘Embryo’. But just as everything gets harder, the fuzztone bass kicks in as Marshall goes in for these wildly drum patterns before Etheridge, Baker, and Travis have turned into mice scattering around the house looking for a gigantic amount of Swiss cheese they’ll devour for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

A fine release MoonJune has unleashed for 2023 so far. And the hot weather makes it perfect for the Soft Machine to get those Other Doors open to bring in the cold front and bringing in those compositions waiting to be discovered.

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