MATCHING MOLE — Matching Mole

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MATCHING MOLE - Matching Mole cover
3.48 | 13 ratings | 5 reviews
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Album · 1972

Filed under Fusion


A1 O Caroline
A2 Instant Pussy
A3 Signed Curtain
A4 Part Of The Dance
B1 Instant Kitten
B2 Dedicated To Hugh, But You Weren't Listening
B3 Beer As In Braindeer
B4 Immediate Curtain

Total Time: 40:05


Bass Guitar – Bill MacCormick
Electric Piano – Dave McRae
Guitar – Phil Miller
Mellotron, Piano, Drums, Voice – Robert Wyatt
Piano, Organ – David Sinclair

About this release

CBS – S 64850(UK)

Thanks to EntertheLemming, snobb for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

When,after releasing of their "Fourth" album,in 1971 one of Soft Machine's founding member Robert Wyatt left the band (not happy with band's trend to play more plain jazz fusion),first his own project was Matching Mole (even the name “Matching Mole” was derived from the French translation of “Soft Machine ” (machine molle)).

Band's debut is a strange and beautiful music.Being kind of Canterbury supergroup,with organist Dave Sinclair,bassist Bill MacCormick, guitarist Phil Miller and keyboardist Dave McRae on board,on their debut Wyatt-led band returned to music,played by Soft Machine on their first two albums. But it's no way cloning - psychedelic melodic pop rock is presented as only part of the album, another part contains complex improvs based psychedelic jazz fusion (more similar to Soft Machine's Third).

Album opens with quite straight forward psychedelic pop light melancholic ballade "O Caroline" with Daevid Allen's early Gong music influenced dreamy and psyche "Instant Pussy". "Signed Curtain" is third in line melancholic gently song with characteristic Wyatt's vocals (all three first songs sound as early Soft Machine's and Gong's crossover). Nice excursion to late 60-s sounding a bit dated in 1971.

Happily "Part Of The Dance" changes sound and atmosphere radically. Heavier,almost aggressive guitars and keyboards driven complex instrumental composition in best tradition of Soft Machine's Third (but with bigger attention to melody and more relaxed).Rest of the album starting from here contains psychedelic,dark and heavy in moments quite melodic compositions with long improvs.

Wyatt's version of "Soft Machine" is less jazzy, more psychedelic,melodic and - what is really important - very emotional (in contrast with technically perfect but cold,quite formal and even plain musicianship of "Soft Machine" after Wyatt's left the band).

Possibly in whole,this album is a bit bulky and raw in moments, but it demonstrates some greatest artistic moments of Wyatt and is important evidence of Canterbury scene on its best.
Bury This Cant

Oh dear....what a sprawling mess of a record this is to be sure. After the lightweight but delightful 'O Caroline' kicks things off, it just degenerates thereafter into a rambling and incoherent noodle fest. Although Robert Wyatt is a musician I have the utmost regard for, his decision to squander part of 1971 with these lazy hippies is at best, dubious. You can rest assured that the majority of track times listed here correlate exactly to how long these songs took to write. This is fusion/freeform improv wank taken to it's inevitable and dreary conclusion. Without any sort of underlying structure or form to hang your ideas onto, you end up spitting into the wind like Matching Mole do here. To be fair, the drummer tries hard to inject some sort of propulsive direction to the proceedings, but very often he abandons this under the unflinching incoherence all around him. Fuzz bass, fuzz organ, fuzz guitar, fuzz Rhodes and fuzz head(s) are the main ingredients in the appalling and badly recorded mix. The Canterbury crowd has thrown up some unequivocal gems like National Health, Hatfield & the North, Kevin Ayers etc but this is just undisciplined and amateur tomfoolery that should never have seen the light of day. It is particularly ironic that charges of self indulgence, long windedness, and lack of respect for your audience are reserved primarily for the prog giants like ELP, Yes, Genesis et al and yet here we have, preserved in atrocious stereo, everything that has rendered the label progressive rock a pejorative one.

Members reviews

siLLy puPPy
Hard to believe that a simple innocent band like the Wilde Flowers could blossom so quickly and splinter into so many disparate directions. After that fortuitous breakup, both Soft Machine and Caravan continued on in the psychedelic pop world but as Caravan continued to create ever more sophisticated progressively oriented psychedelic pop, Soft Machine on the other hand was hell bent for leather for jumping into jazz-rock territory only to abandon the rock part of the equation altogether. While this was perfectly suited for the such jazz leaning members such as Elton Dean, Robert Wyatt was feeling like a fish out of water and was very quickly getting squeezed out of the band’s decision in musical direction. Come Soft Machine’s “IV” and he had enough.

Whether he was fired or voluntarily left of his own volition is a mute point. The fact was that Wyatt’s creative outlets were being stifled and it was time to move on. Move on he did and while Soft Machine was more interested in proving themselves as jazz musicians and abandoning all the rock creds that created progressive rock’s Canterbury Scene, Wyatt was ready to jump back onto the Canterbury bandwagon and take control of his own musical direction. The result was the cleverly named MATCHING MOLE where Wyatt put the whimsy back in the Scene and created a pun on “Machine Molle” which is simply the French translation of Soft Machine!

Wyatt hooked up with Caravan organist David Sinclair (who remained with that band), original Quiet Sun bassist Bill MacCormick and guitarist Phil Miller who had played with Carol Grimes & Delivery. Wyatt continued his role as a drummer but also contributed a great deal of piano, mellotron and lead vocals. In a way, MATCHING MOLE’s eponymous debut is the first “true” 70s Canterbury Scene album, at least in that famous cohesive sound since both Soft Machine and Caravan while going their own ways remained psychedelic pop and in the case of Soft Machine’s “Third” and beyond, more a jazz-rock fusion band. MATCHING MOLE was the first album in the subgenre to create that perfect fusion sound of psychedelic rock and jamming sessions with all the technical jazz touches side by side with the humorous whimsical style that the style had become synonymous with.

While this was indubitably Wyatt’s baby, he seemed to still be letting other’s influence his decision as to what was to make it on the album. This is abundantly clear on the first track “O Caroline” which is really the one track that doesn’t fit in with the rest. While Wyatt composed the majority of tracks on the album, it was Sinclair and his slick Caravan pop sensibilities who composed the opener “O Caroline,” a track about breaking up with his girlfriend and apparently supposed to be a single as it appears on the remastered version as a bonus track titled “O Caroline (Single version.)” It is a whiny little track with a piano based melody riffing along about, well, girl trouble things. Not necessarily bad subject matter but clearly a stab at some sort of crossover success. While the two following tracks “Instany Pussy” and “Signed Curtain” are also based in catchy melodies and not overtly complex, they do sound more like the classic Canterbury style with an ostinato bass line frosted over with psychedelic touches and the famous organ sound that instantly screams the style albeit more on the accessible side as well. These two track in many ways portend the much more complex leanings of the future Hatfield & The North projects at least in sound.

While the first MATCHING MOLE album starts off rather ho hum with a tame crossover type track and slowly transitions into more interesting musical turf, it really takes off on the fourth track “Part Of The Dance,” the sole Miller contribution creates a lengthy nine minute plus jazzy psychedelic jam session that utilizes all the progressive rock signature sounds with a rad mellotron and organ accompaniment punctuated by a plethora of time signature workouts and Miller’s stellar guitar work that would eventually find a second calling in Quiet Sun. The remaining tracks never deviate from the progressive rock world and only get more psychedelic, more otherworldly and more proggy as they commence. It’s actually quite astonishing how the album ratchets up from totally accessible and borderline cheesy to ultra-sophistication in both musical performance and production values. Perhaps a slow burner but more than worth the wait.

Speaking of production values, this album is fairly notorious for having been poorly recorded despite appearing on a major label like CBS Records when it debuted in 1972, however i highly recommend the newer remastered version that came out in 2012. It not only has a bonus disc with a ridiculous amount of surplus material including alternate session takes and BBC Radio One sessions but also includes the single edits and the stellar previously unreleased near 21 minute prog behemoth “Part Of The Dance Jam” which most certainly would have been included on the album if permission for a double album would have been granted. It is a sprawling jam that takes the MATCHING MOLE psychedelic Canterbury sound and merges it with more of a Soft Machine “Third” type of composition. Not to mention the production has been improved 100 fold and although not exactly sounding like it’s a bristling new album recording in modern times, sounds crisp and clean for an album recorded many decades ago.
Robert Wyatt's first album as a band leader, following his exit from Soft Machine, shows the broad range of his musical interests - almost all of which were being ignored by his former band at this point, with their fourth and fifth albums being devoted to fairly strait-laced jazz fusion. Not that there's no jazz influence here - far from it - but the album is infused with Wyatt's hitherto-stifled personality, from the touching love song O Caroline that opens the album (the simplest track) to the more challenging, free jazz-influenced material that follows.

At times, the album sounds like a more approachable, tighter, and interesting version of Wyatt's An End of an Ear, his voice-as-instrument solo album; at other points, it sounds like rough sketches for Hatfield and the North. The latter part isn't so surprising, since after the demise of the Mole guitarist Phil Miller became a founder of Hatfield and the North, and the most Hatfield-sounding song on the album, Part of the Dance, is actually a Miller composition.

The second Matching Mole album was a bit more diverse in its songwriting - the majority of the material here is by Wyatt, but that's really no surprise considering that by the time of his exit from Soft Machine he must have had quite a stash of juicy musical ideas which had been glossed over by his former band. I think it's a vitally important album both to Wyatt's discography and to the development of the Canterbury scene as a whole.
Sean Trane
With his first solo album under his belt, Wyatt returned to Soft Machine, only to find that opposition to his vocal experiments had grown stronger than ever, and he left “this group that was making him so miserable”, but this didn’t mean that all links were severed. Actually he had grown frustrated at the other Machinists’ persistence in ignoring his vocal and poppier musical preoccupations. So Wyatt proceeded to record another solo album, but his CBS label convinced him to form a band to promote the album instead. So the album that had startedc as poppy-vocal album ended up up a schizophrenic mix of solid JR/F and pop tunes.

Not only did Robert name his new band after his former group’s French translation (Machine Mole >> hence Matching Mole), but the two groups spent much time touring together, the newcoming MM opening for the veteran SM. So Robert called up old Wylde Flower Dave Sinclair, Delivery’s Phil Miller (brother of then-Caravan Steve Miller), and found Bill McCormick during a Quiet Sun eclipse and formed his “group”, which only rehearsed three months before recording their debut album. About halfway through it became apparent that Sinclair wasn’t going to stay in MM (partly on touring issues, but I suspect Wyatt’s voracity in terms of writing credits as he signs all but one track), so the group added jazzman Dave McRae on electric piano, but supposedly as a guest. Indeed, lengend has it that the two keyboardists even played a few MM gigs together. Less than a month after the album’s release, McRae became an official member, following Sinclair’s departure.

Recorded around Christmas 71, MM’s debut album is an uneven affair, with the record basically divided in three sections. The first section seems to elevate Wyatt as a superstar with his vocals brought to the fore, while the second movement is a wild fusion of jazz-rock and prog rock, and the third part being quite experimental. MM’s debut couldn’t have started worse off, with the atrocious O Caroline (based on journalist/activist Caroline XXX. This song is not only terrible (the only thing saving it is the interesting mellotron sprawled all over the song), but it also happens to have been the most covered one in Canterbury circles. But the bad start is immediately mended with the superb Instant Pussy where Wyatt orgasms into the microphone as if he was a woman, the whole thing over a tranquil bass line and a gentle jazz-rock rhythm. Segueing directly into Signed Curtain, Wyatt starts with his no nonsense “first verse and chorus” lyrics over a piano that Floyd’s Rick Wright wouldn’t disown. After the first three songs celebrating Wyatt’s diverse fortunes as a singer, the albums veers (first gently with a soft electric piano) but less than a minute into Miller’s Part Of The Dance, we are deeply in hard-driving uncompromising jazz-rock, the type that fries your brains when looking out for the sun. This track blazes and smokes all the way throughout its 9-mins+.

The flipside starts on two tracks that could’ve easily come from the better Caravan albums, and it’s a bit surprising to find that Sinclair didn’t write these two. Instant Kitten is a slow developing track that pays tribute to its sister Instant Pussy, but once the second part of the track has arrived., it sounds stunningly like a Caravan track looking for home (like G&P album). The next track, Dedicated To Hugh (after a Vol 2 SM track) starts on weird electronic noises “e tutti quanti” before returning to a Caravan sound (this time Waterloo Lily era), before veering completely insane RIO/improv. Beer As Braindeer is a cosmic theme in its middle section, but takes upon the RIO realm for the opening and losing parts. The latter Immediate Curtain is spooky cosmic track that resembles early Tangerine Dream.

MM’s debut album is a bit of a confusing and uneven affair, but the qualities are so much grater than its flaws, that it cannot be anything else but an essential Canterbury sound, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend any MM albums to a novice Canterbury pilgrim.

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