1. Spaced One
2. Spaced Two
3. Spaced Three
4. Spaced Four
5. Spaced Five
6. Spaced Six
7. Spaced Seven
Recorded: 1969. London
Hugh Hopper: bass, tapeloops
Mike Ratledge: electric piano, organ, tapeloops
Robert Wyatt: drums, tapeloops
Brian Hopper: saxophones
After supporting Hendrix on the USA tour of 1968, the shell shocked
Softs said "No More!" Kevin Ayers left to begin a lifelong devotion to
sunshine and Mediteranian islands; Robert Wyatt planned to stay in the
states and become a solo artist; Mike Ratledge hoped never in his life
to see the inside of another club, theatre, stadium....
But they had forgotten the two record deal they had signed for-and a man has to do what a man has to do! They asked me to fill in for Kevin- just to do studio record and then carry on with real life. Ha Ha.. Of course it became: "Well just a spot on Hedrix's London concert to promote the album fellas..."Then: "Got this little tour of France and Holland for you" And off again for another 10 years.
But in early 1969 one of the more interesting projects suggested by the association of Softs managers Ian Knight and Sean Murphy with Keith Albarn (yes, Damons Dad) was Peter Dockley's lunatic multimedia show at the Roundhouse, Spaced. Ballet dancers and ex army gymnasts (and you don't get a more incongruous mix than that) were choreographed to bound about over a geodesic structure made of construction scaffolding. Commonplace nowadays, of course, but still fairly freaky then. They wore wonderful rubber costumes with octopus suckers up and down their arms and legs. They wanted a backing tape of suitably deranged and doomy sounds, so we recorded chunks of music as a trio in a converted warehouse in Londons deserted ex Docklands that we used for rehearsals. (It wasn't a chic yuppie area in those days, it was grim: dead cats floating in the weed choked docks and so on).
My brother Brian came up at weekend to add some sax blasts here and there, and we spent a week or more playing around with tape loops and ancient mechanical aids to produce an hour and a half of finished tape. Now of course with a computer you could do the whole thing in an afternoon, but in those analog days it was strictly scissors and tape (and lots of third generation hiss).
However we knew we could ask our captive recording engineer Bob Woolford to do the weirdest things with his Stellavoxs, Brenells and Ferrographs - he was trying to open out the unorthodox. Which is why Bob is now living a fulfilled life in the snowy hills of Connetict pretending to be a bicycle repair man and not a boring record company executive. And its thanks to Mike king, author of the Robert Wyatt biography Wrong Movements who tracked Bob down. I don't recall the week long show taking London by storm. One review said something like "...accompanied by clanking noises from The Soft Machine." Aggrieved punters complained that they were expecting a live Soft Machine concert. Halfway through the run the management pleaded with us to come and do a short live spotduring the show, but we felt we had already contributed an honest chunk of our creative lives to the project. The show didn't transfer to Broadway, but a BBC arts program ran a short televised excerpt to publicise it. Using Pink Floyd as a backing track.
The version here has been fairly radically edited-the original had long building and fading sections to go with the onstage action and to usher the unsuspecting audience into the Roundhouse. Very long, some of those sections, believe me.....
Sleeve notes by Hugh Hopper (from Cuneiform website)
| A returning item in Soft Machine’s
music is the use of tape loops and/or repeated patterns. Tape loops
were often used by electronic music composers in the Fifties and
Sixties. One or more sounds were recorded; the tape was spliced and
taped together at a certain point, whereby the tape could have length
for over one meter or even more. Sometimes tapes were used which ran
through a room from one wall to the other. Halfway a heavy bottle was
used to guide it. Longer tapes meant less repeated patterns; how
shorter the tape, the more repetitions. Terry Riley used this way of
creating his early minimal music, or repeated music as it was named in
the beginning. He visited Paris and worked there as well. Daevid Allen
caught up with him and that’s how the repeated music was introduced in
Soft Machine’s music. In the early days of the group most musicians
visited Allen on his houseboat in Paris and created lots of loops;
it’s fun after all. As you can read on the left Peter Dockley asked
the group if they could create a backing tape for his multi-media
happening ‘Spaced’, which would be performed at the Roundhouse. Mike,
Hugh and Robert started recording; Hugh’s brother Brian came over and
played some saxophone parts. Bob Woolford (from Middle Earth Masters
fame) helped out with his tape recorders. Space was made in his
apartment in London, with tapes running around milk bottles and up the
stairs and fear of his cat which could have destroyed the
constructions. The project wasn’t that successful; the audience
expected the real band, the critics described at as ‘clanking noises’
and after all just a small part was used for television but not with
Soft Machine’s tapes, but with a track from Pink Floyd! The cd doesn’t
contain all tracks, some were lost, some were boring after all. Spaced
One is a track with very soft sounds, you can hear the bass and
sometimes organ, but there are also lots of other noises to be heard.
Spaced Two sounds very familiar now; the tune was used before! Spaced
Three is a tape played backwards, creating an unearthly atmosphere.
The very long Spaced Four sounds real Soft Machine like with a long
organ solo by Mike. Sometimes that sounds real creepy. Spaced Five is
almost late night jazz with a beautiful saxophone part in it. Speed
Six could have been a Frank Zappa composition, using all the kinds of
percussion and electronic sounds. Space Seven is a typical Soft
Machine record-ending sound, soft and sliding. Spaced is not a
‘normal’ Soft Machine album; if you like electronic music and
experimental music this is one for you, otherwise it could be
disappointing; not everyone likes those ‘clanking sounds’ after all.
Paul Lemmens © 2014