1. Pataphysical Introduction pt 1
  2. A Concise British Alphabet pt 1
  3. Hibou, Anemone and Bear
  4. A Concise British Alphabet pt 2
  5. Hulloder
  6. Dada was Here
  7. Thank You Pierrot Lunaire
  8. Have You Ever Bean Green?
  9. Pataphysical Introduction pt 2
10. Out of Tunes


11. As long As He Lies Perfectly Still
12. Dedicated To You But You Weren't Listening
13. Fire Engine Passing With Bells Clanging
14. Pig
15. Orange Skin Food
16. A Door Opens And Closes
17. 10:30 Returns to the Bedroom 

Recorded: february & march 1969 at Olympic Studios, London
Released: september 1969

Robert Wyatt: drums, vocals 
Mike Ratledge: piano, organ, harpsichord, flute
Hugh Hopper: electric bass, acoustic guitar, alto sax
Brian Hopper: alto & tenor saxes
the French (Barclay) lp-cover: Supergroup (!) Volume 2
and a striking dutch lp-version...

 the italian way (lp)
combination of Volume One & Two on one cd

as above: the soft machine collection (cd)
the American way: Soft Machine - 2lp - both Volumes
the French way: Architects of Space Time - 2lp - both volumes

Volume One and Two on 2 lp-set: Milestones

the Hopper bros: brain and hugh

mike - robert - hugh

There is music for the body and there is music for the mind. Music for the body picks you off the floor and hurls you into physical activity of whatever type you may prefer at the moment. Music for the mind floats you gently downstream, through pleasurable twists and turns, ups and downs, rapids and calm waters.
The Soft Machine plays music for the mind. In its strictest sense, it may impose some cerebral responsibility on the listener, because you can't really hum along or have the tune pass through your head as you walk in the streets. But the ultimate good feeling that the Machine generates will always remain with you , and the final emotional benefit is well worth the thinking toll.
Since their first album, the Soft Machine has aged and changed. Hugh Hopper has joined the group on bass, making the trio tighter than ever. Additional instrumentation has been used where necessary to advance the musical maturity of this superbly advanced group. In general everybody's heads are more together. After hearing this album, yours will be also.

from the original innersleeve
To be short: Volume Two is my all-time favourite Soft Machine album. Why? Maybe for nostalgic reasons alone, since it was my first meeting with the band when I was thirteen years old (see elsewhere on this site). But on the other hand, this set has an open approach, something wild and new was going on, sound experiments, jazz, rock, another kind of vocals and mostly all things happening at the same time. Who wouldn’t be hooked to this in 1969, even if you weren’t thirteen?
After releasing Volume One, Soft Machine found themselves touring in the US in a program with The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Touring in those days was a lunatic affair, going round like idiots. Nobody liked it. After the tour Kevin fled to Ibiza to calm down and realized this was not what he wanted. Robert stayed in the US and was happy to work on other musical projects and Mike went back home to relax and almost retreat. But a second record had to be made for Probe, part of the deal. It was immediate clear that not everyone would be present for another time in the studio. Robert and Mike were willing to record but Kevin refused. They asked their US roadie and long-time Canterbury and Wilde Flowers friend Hugh Hopper for bass parts and even maybe some compositions. End 1968 rehearsals started with the new trio and new songs. The record was recorded spring ’69. Those were the days. Indeed did Hugh bring lots of new compositions with him and Robert wrote new songs. Special guest star throughout was Hugh’s brother Brian who helped out on soprano and tenor saxes. Hugh played guitar, alto sax and of course his bass, now equipped with fuzz pedal, which he would use frequent throughout the record. Surprisingly, keyboarder Mike played flute on some of the tracks. The relatively short record (33 minutes) was divided in two parts: Rivmic Melodies (side one) and Esther’s Nose Job (side two). Those two parts were divided in smaller parts (courtesy of Frank Zappa, who told the band they could earn more money by doing so). The longest track is just over five minutes, the shortest measures just ten seconds. Because Volume One was recorded and released in the US, Volume Two was in fact the first UK release. It was received with great enthusiasm. Both in the UK as in other parts of Europe.
Rivmic Melodies starts with a ‘good evening’ from Robert and a band introduction leading into the British Alphabet. Fuzz bass and grand piano marks the entrée of Hibou, Anemone and Bear. A composition based on repetitive elements (common in the Machine) from both Brian and Hugh on saxes. Mike gives a short and sharp solo. The alphabet returns in backwards form and Hulloder starts with a vocal philosophy. Dada (referring to the art direction, all is art, nothing is art) is here, but this time in Spanish. From Dada to Arnold Schönberg’s Pierrot Lunaire is just a small step. “Thank you for everyone, including the Hendrix Experience”, sings Robert referring to the American tour with the Experience. Pataphysics part two begins with chat vocals, more thanks and leads into Out of Tunes, a collage of sounds, melodies, flutes, all very 60s but at the time new and experimental sounds. Esther on side two starts with a typical Machine riff in As Long as He Lies Perfectly Still. Dedicated to you, Hugh’s composition, is a totally different song, with Robert singing only with accompaniment by Hugh’s acoustic guitar. A remarkable piece. This softer piece makes way for the more dominant start of Esther’s Nose Job. Five tracks loaded with sounds, organ screams, fuzz bass parts, an a-typical drum solo (not a solo if you know what I mean – the dada concept). Fire Engine builds up the sounds strongly into Pig. Hugh uses his fuzz bass as solo guitar and even nowadays that is a huge sound. Orange Skin Food has – again- minimalistic sax styling's under an organ solo which goes on until the Door Opens, again with heavy fuzz bass. The tempo builds up again, piano, fuzz bass again in 10.30 Returns to the Bedroom. An absolute great return. If you could ever return to your bedroom this way… . The sounds get mellow, the very short dada drum solo starts, Hugh plays a bass motive which would become very popular in 80s disco music and Mike concludes the set with softly dying organ sound. Every time I hear Esther, I think it’s a great piece, even after all these years! Nothing nostalgia, just fantastic music.
Later on the set was played by an extended band, which can be heard on various discs (BBC recordings) and it was also recorded in Paradiso, Amsterdam and bootlegged. It was never official released, but there are a load of releases in various outings of that set.
Although Volume Two was a great record at the time it didn’t bring the success the trio had expected and there were various ways of handling it. More and longer instrumental pieces, more instruments (winds and brass), less vocals? They didn’t know it at this point, things would become clear on Third.

Paul Lemmens © 2012/2014