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Soft Machine: Switzerland 1974

You have to be an extremely confident unit-and one mother of a band-to turn up at a prestigious mega-gig like the Montreux Jazz Festival and drop a set of new material on the audience like the newly rejiggered Soft Machine did in July 1974. Turns out that material would go on to comprise 1975’s Bundles, a fusion juggernaut, but hey, props where props are due. And there should be no shortage of them with this set, as newly acquired guitarist Allan Holdsworth works himself in the Machine fold with the most well stocked of sonic quivers.

His riffs come from all directions, and opener “Hazard Profile” is a veritable Encyclopedia Britannica of fusion technique. Hammer-ons marry up with staccato fuzz, which eddies out into needle-like lines of extreme dexterity and delicacy. Enviable stuff in and of itself, but integrated into the band’s churning rhythmic approach-like they’re trying to outpace Bitches Brew-we have one mighty, thudding beast to contend with. A lot of that beast’s ferocity, as it were, comes courtesy of John Marshall’s kit work, as on the clattering “Land of the Bag Snake,” the titular creature being made to sound like it is thumping its way down electric stairs.

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