Matching Mole – Little Red Record
Having effectively been forced out of the Soft Machine fold, drummer and vocalist Robert Wyatt sallied forth regardless, first releasing the solo album End of an Ear, before forming the quite delectable Matching Mole.
Taking their name from the French for Soft Machine (Machine Molle), the band recorded two albums, both released in 1972, before Wyatt’s plummet from a fourth floor window put an end to his rock drumming career, as well as Matching Mole.
Sporting a magnificent cover, whose inspiration lies in the artwork of the Cultural Revolution, Little Red Record was the second of these albums and what a little smasher it is.
Everything is right about this package, from the aforementioned cover to the band line-up, through to the compositions and luxuriant instances of Fender Rhodes electric piano. As the late Billy Dainty once said, you can never have too much Fender Rhodes.
Matching Mole consisted – in order of beard length, as the liners proudly state – of Nucleus’s Dave MacRae on keyboards (replacing Caravan and future Hatfield and the North noodler, Dave Sinclair); the aforementioned Robert Wyatt on drums and gob; Phil Miller on guitars (who would have associations with all manner of Canterbury-based bands); and Quiet Sun’s Bill MacCormick on bass. A formidable assembly of hairy prog/jazz fusion stalwarts, who put Little Red Record in fine stead to deliver the proverbial goods.
Also along for the ride was ambient pioneer and Rocky Horror Riff-Raff impersonator, Brian Eno, who employs his VCS3 synthesizer on the lengthy and atmospheric soundscape piece ‘Gloria Gloom’. This particular track also sees Wyatt nailing his political colours to the mast, ones which, in keeping with the theme of the album and its cover, are a commendable shade of red.
Elsewhere, a certain Julie Christie, trading under the alias of Ruby Crystal, provides background “voice parts”, most notably on the mildly fruity ‘Nan True’s Hole’, which takes its name from the house John Peel would rechristen ‘Peel Acres’, while providing an eye-opening education for the song’s timorous forty-year-old virgin.
The slightly sinister, fuzzed through soundtrack that ‘Nan True’s Hole’ plays out to, makes up part of a continuous and seamlessly blended piece that forms the first half of the album. As with most of Wyatt’s output of the time, Little Red Record is crafted along experimental lines; thankfully, it never once falls foul of the unlistenable quagmires of pretentiousness that other avant-gardians of the era were sometimes known to stray into.
What we get for our two bob is a mixture of instrumental and vocal tracks upon which Robert Wyatt’s distinctive voice rings hither, drifting in and out of the mix like a detuned radio. The musicianship is, as you might expect considering the calibre of artists involved, to the highest standard, with Dave MacRae effortlessly stepping into the shoes of his ubiquitous predecessor. He provides some particularly shimmering and resonant Fender Rhodes infusion along the way, augmenting the fact that this almost mystical electric piano is America’s greatest gift to the world.
At times exhilarating, others dramatic, and more often than not simply exquisite, Little Red Album is an engaging feast of opulence upon an elegant platter of sublime. Despite Robert Wyatt taking a backseat with the songwriting (Dave MacCrae providing the majority of material) this is perhaps the album Soft Machine would’ve made, had they continued along the path of their first two albums.
And if, after all that, you’re still not convinced, did I mention it was produced by Crimson’s Robert Fripp? Surely that should seal the deal.
Little Red Album by Matching Mole has just been reissued in a 2-disc expanded format, featuring a veritable hoolie’s worth of bonus material, including live recordings and session tracks.
If the fancy’s well and truly tickled, Little Red Album is available to buy from Amazon.co.uk
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