It starts out with a mellowing ballad done by the Mellotron and creating some wonderful structures in the Canterbury circuit as Robert Wyatt comes in with his soothing voice about a break up in the realms of O Caroline which was dedicated to his Ex-Girlfriend. Not to mention the line, “If you call this sentimental crap/you’ll make me mad/cause you’ll know that I would not sing about some passing fad/and if my attempts at rhyming aren’t convincing to your ear/the memories betrayed you through the passing of the year.”
It proves to be almost a humoristic taste of the silly love songs from the late ‘60s and shows how this band could have been huge, but cut short in 1973 after Wyatt fell down through a third story, damaging his back and remained in a wheelchair through the rest of his life. That and the short-lived Canterbury supergroup, Matching Mole was formed by Robert himself after he left or was fired from the Soft Machine in 1971 with the release of Fourth and finished up his solo debut which was a Free-Jazz Avant-Garde mass madness on The End of an Ear in 1970.
In the band featured: Phil Miller on guitar, Keyboardist David Sinclair from Caravan, and bassist Bill MacCormick from Quiet Sun, showed how strange, twisted, and amazing they were with their sound and surrealism. Two of their albums (Matching Mole and Little Red Record) have been given the 2-CD Expanded Edition treatment done by the good people at Esoteric Recordings including liner notes by King Crimson expert Sid Smith, who knows his history of the Canterbury scene very well.
The first sole self-titled debut, originally released on the CBS label back in 1972, was composed and conducted by Wyatt as it has a lot of the Jazz structures with a lot of Fusion work and laying down the groove and having a freak-out session at times that would haven taken the listener down into a wonderland of out of this world time changes and sometimes laid-back as well. Robert would do some harmonizing vocalization and some scat-singing and screeching which is investigated on the Avant-Funk orientation, Instant Pussy and the vicious organ work roar done by Sinclair on the Instant Kitten where he would pay homage to Ratledge with his fuzztone garage rock-like sound that would give you goosebumps as the flute sounds on the mellotron would be a calm after the storm finale.
The 9-minute haunting instrumental, Part of the Dance, is where they go into some vicious sounds on their instruments as MacCormick would do some fusion-like bass lines that resembles a pre-Jaco Pastorious as Phil Miller comes up with these guitar lines that kicks you right in the gut as he makes it roar in where Hendrix and McLaughlin were doing in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. At times it sounds like there were some sessions that were taken off during the Head Hunters or the On the Corner-era as it would be roaring and laid-back to groove the tempos going.
Then it’s off to the voyages of Space with some fast movement in which they go into light speed with Dedicated to Hugh, But You Weren’t Listening as Miller just lets it come at him with his guitar solo that is hard, heavy, and a little bit volcanic as the band keep up with him to see where his fingers would lay on the fret while the booming segue Beer As in Braindeer has this anti-climatic dooming hay-wiring finale as all of the instruments go into this Mad Scientist ruckus mixing different kinds of potions and turning it into a monster that has been let out of the cage and wreaking havoc across the city.
Immediate Curtain is a rumbling closer which has Dave Sinclair, is going at it with his keyboards while Wyatt comes up with some sci-fi elements with the strings on the Mellotron to make it an Atmospheric yet terrifying ending that almost sounded like an episode of the Outer Limits. Next, is their last album, Little Red Record, released the same year in November and as a follow up to their first album in which there was a little help from King Crimson’s Robert Fripp as a producer, Ruby Crystal (pseudonym for actress Julie Christie) and Roxy Music’s Brian Eno appearing on one track to close the band with a white ribbon around the oak tree, shows that they were about to go out with a bang with a lot of electricity and voltage in their sleeves.
Beginning with a mock operetta with Dave MacRae who replaced David Sinclair, creating some moody sounds on the organ and a concerto on the Piano on the strange long title, Starting in the Middle of the Day We Can Drink Our Politics Away as it segues into the attack mode fusion style with the 8-minute terror, Marchides. Like a torpedo going at you about to hit the water with a bang, this is a Jazz Rock attack mode with Dave and Bill dueling between Rhodes and Bass into a Fuzz mode to see who can come up with the best solo during the race for the first three minutes as Dave comes in with some spooky elements that is very New Age and then coming back with thumping closure.
Elsewhere, Nan’s True Hole is Wyatt singing the melody with the bass line and drums together as Julie Christie speaks about how messed up her life and dealing with sex as Phil Miller is doing some Crimson-like guitar work to set the scenery while Brandy As in Benj is MacRae’s moment to shine as he takes the Rhodes up a notch with soulful sound as he comes up with some interesting Herbie Hancock lines on the keyboard to pay tribute to him.
Gloria Gloom which features Eno as a guest on the album, is Matching Mole becoming from a Canterbury band by transforming them into Tangerine Dream with this space rock avant-garde nightmarish hell that Eno is doing with the VCS3 before the conversations kick in as the instruments follow them as Wyatt sings and make it very strange as possible. Then there’s the lukewarm crisp acoustic folk of God Song which has an anti-religious view on how we can understand the invisible man up in the sky watching everyone to see how they behave, which is very atheist, but very catchy.
Flora Fidgit resembles the Gentle Giant pre-Octopus sessions in which the band come in together as a team and do some magic on their own while the closer Smoke Signal pays tribute to King Crimson’s Moonchild jazz-like improvisation that really sort of tickle Fripp’s funny bone as if he is watching them having a ball and closing the album off with a T. The bonus tracks feature some recording sessions for the BBC at the Paris Theatre they did and two for John Peel, single versions, different takes of each of the compositions, including a jazz ballad of the Soft Machine’s psych-classic cover titled Memories Membrane and a funk orientation on Horse while the band and Christie come up with some intro on how to start the introduction line for Marchides on Mutter with a sense of humor to show they had a good time.
While the band called it a day, it proves that they were one of the most obscure bands from the Canterbury period and these two albums have shown that they were the bees knees of collaborations and team effort. A must have for any Canterbury fan if you’re a fan of the Soft Machine, Caravan, Hatfield and the North, Gentle Giant, and Egg.