Soft Machine – Third

Originally released in 1970 on CBS/Columbia Records

LPx2, Music on Vinyl, Reissue, 2011

Pulling away from the jazzy psych-pop of their first two albums, Third sees Soft Machine gearing towards sprawling side-long compositions of spacey jazz-rock. Motivic electric-bass grooves, multi-tracked saxophones, complex swing rhythms and fuzzy organs reign supreme in these thematic improvisations, augmented by compositional tape edits and heavy doses of psychedelic post-production. The whimsical, diverse musical nature of founding member Robert Wyatt (drums/vocals) is relegated to the eclectic suite, “Moon in June”, his last composition for the band due to the other members not being a fan of his vocals and preferring the seriousness of jazz fusion to Wyatt’s playfulness and spontaneity. This transitional energy results in an ephemeral chemistry, alchemizing creative tension into the band’s most visionary record.

Track Notes

A1 – Facelift
? atonal ambient section, psychedelic soundscapes
? Psychedelic collage structure (found on most of album)
? Goes into groovy fusion jamming (Main Theme)
? Fades into psychedelic drone with eerie flute solo
? Strings creep in
? Leads to brooding groove, exploring the unknown
? Searching, passionate sax solo
? Chill version of the main theme
? Abrupt edit to dramatic marching drums with all instruments in unison on a sinister theme
? Jam reverses, musique concrete drone til end

B1 – Slightly All the time (Favorite Track)
? Main theme
? solo bass, minimal groove with harmonics
? drums join with light swing
? Full horn section comes in on main theme (A) in unison, thematic jazz fusion
? Confident Sax solo
? Bass still doing same groove, but with some chord changes
? Weird time signature riff
? passionate soprano sax solo
? Smooth tenor solo
? Horns back in unison and then drops out to drum-bass-keys
? (A)Thematic horns re-enter for main theme
? (Possible edit). Faster, driving section. Multi-tracked flute solos, possibly same flute solo but with one delayed a few bars, in a round
? Weird Time signature riff
? Super clean edit to coolest section in the song
? Amazing new vibe/groove in slow 9/4 Riff
? Rad soprano solo
? fuzzy farifsa solo (bass clarinet playing riff on right side)
? Multi-tracked horns playing theme in unison
? Edit to slow, open, spacious new theme
? Swelling organ, lyrical bass, jazzy drums
? Kicks into sad, sexy groove with passionate sax solo
? Kicks into 9/4 swing with fat walking bassline, double time
? Dig how drums are panned right, keys left, bass and sax center
? Edit into slow, epic theme for dramatic outro, with a noisy exclamation point

C1 – Moon in June
-Robert Wyatt compositon
? Jazz-pop section
? vocals, panned organs, drums – most instruments played by Wyatt
? Lyrics are a bit playfully sexual
? goes between sad and playful
? organs follow vocal melodies
? uplifting bass solo
? Lyrics are romantic, likely about his future wife Alfie
? Dark, disjointed, atonal section
? Dark organ solo (played by Wyatt, more simplistic than Mike Rateledge)
? Sunny Pop Section based around vox and piano
? “Living can be lovely….wish I were back home again”
? Instrumental lead by right organ
? Drums and organ drones build into new section
? Final verse with greater energy, romantic lyrics
? Vocals and instruments sustain into drone that morphs into full band section
? Full band section, continues perfectly from last
? Fuzzy bass, jazz fusion grooves
? Fat fuzzy bassline kicks into fast walking jazz section
? Driving swing with heavy walking bass, organ fuzz solo on left side
? Wordless vocals supports organ solo
? Organ solo over frenetic drums and bassist holding it down
? Vocal rejoin for atmospheric/harmonic purposes
? Tempo starts falling apart, crazy, noisy sounds
? Builds into epic and noisy climax with fuzzy bass and wailing siren-like organ. Tempo falls apart
? More mellow, spacey swung section. Still moody but lighter
? Chord progression builds up with fuzzy bass or organ in back
? Sustained fuzz becomes drone
? Free jazz drone section
? frantic but quiet drum pulse on left
? Throbbing organ notes on left
? Eerie violin on left, tape effects. Sliding pitch
? Spaceship synth sounds
? Quiet vox in back
? Helicopter pulse forms. Fat sustained bass

D1 – Out-bloody Rageous
? Section 1: reversed/sped-up tape loops fade in for pretty, blooming drone intro
? Section 2: After a few minutes some groovy jazz fusion kicks in with piano,sax,drums, and motivic bassline, loop atmospheres slowly fade out
? Fuzzy and complex organ solo with piano, bass and drums still comping
? Drops out to just bass playing the motif
? Multi-tracked horns kick in, fluttering saxes heavily drenched in reverb
? Fades into drone loop (like section 1) and then kicks into next section
? Section 3: multi-tracked piano theme
? Contrapuntal Horns in
? Pianos drop out to bass, horns and organ swells. Slow swinging drum pulse
? Emotional saxophone solo, energy building up slowly underneath
? Harmonic saxophone overdubs join in background
? Section 4: multi-layered was tape loops of keyboard and synth arpeggios

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