Down Beat - p.694 stars out of 5
-- "Animated performances include 'Mousetrap' and 'Floating World,' which provide drama and move methodically in a structured, circular fashion."
Personnel: Morgan Fisher (vocals, hurdy-gurdy, electronics); Graeme Blevins (soprano saxophone); Pete Whyman (alto saxophone); Chris Caldwell (baritone saxophone); Hugh Hopper (bass guitar, loops).
Additional personnel: Hugh Hopper (electronics); Morgan Fisher.
Audio Mixer: John Winfield.
Liner Note Author: Duncan Heining.
Recording information: The Premises Studios, Hackney, London, England (03/29/2007/03/30/2007).
Editor: Graeme Blevins.
Photographers: Morgan Fisher; Chris Caldwell.
Arranger: Chris Caldwell.
The concept of transposing the decidedly electric based music of Soft Machine to acoustic saxophone quartet may be a stretch for many. But considering the expansive, orchestral nature of their music, this idea proffered by the Delta Saxophone Quartet makes sense. Their collective sound does not as much tone down the compositions themselves as they were written, but instead gives them a fuller body minus the rock-ish bravado, and is very accessible to both jazz and classical music listeners. When Soft Machine went from the keyboard-oriented fusion edge of Mike Ratledge to the more symphonic influence of Karl Jenkins, some fans probably thought it was to their detriment. What the DSQ has done is reverse the notion that more was better, and have adapted the instrumentation within a quartet format, which was the strongest and most focused of the Soft Machine bands, minus eventual electric guitar. This cast of British woodwind players consists of Graeme Blevins on soprano sax, Chris Caldwell on baritone sax, Tim Holmes on tenor sax, and Pete Whyman on alto sax. They play homogeneously, blended together for the most part in tight arrangements with little or no soloing. Hugh Hopper guests on one track only, "Facelift," sporting the dramatic, elongated, industrial-flavored repeated and then developed signature melody lines that Ratledge played and Hopper reinforced. "Outrageous Moon," featuring the other guest, Morgan Fisher, is the most Canterbury style piece that still retains the influence of Ratledge, with watery vocals, live electronics, and the sound of the hurdy-gurdy. A pastoral, baroque style that Jenkins eventually explored is heard quite extensively on "Somehow with the Passage of Time" which is an adaptation of "King & Queens," as well as the dreamy "To," the 7/8 time signature identifying "Dedicated to You," the cricket chirpy "Aubade," "Noisette," where minimalism meets squawk, and "Epilogue." Perhaps in this vein "The Floating World" best represents the transition in the Soft's lineups, a multi-layered texture composition that is a lustrous variation on the original ambient electronic, synth-laden version turned purely acoustic and shimmering. Most like their predecessors the World Saxophone Quartet, DSQ dance in call-and response fashion within the structure of "Mousetrap" with bell-like clarity and precision, and do a short techno improv freebie with "You." An ambitious project to be sure, kudos to the DSQ for making the timeless '70s sound of Soft Machine sound like it has been around for 100 or more years. ~ Michael G. Nastos