★★★ Hidden Details DYAD. CD First album in 37 years from the psychedelic popsters turned jazz-rock pioneers with revolving door line-up.
In recent decades we’ve had Soft Works, Soft Ware and Soft Machine Legacy, but now here’s a foursome authentic enough to reclaim the original name. Veterans of ’70s line-ups, John Etheridge (guitar), John Marshall (drums), and Roy Babbington (bass) are joined by Theo Travis on saxes and flute. They set out their stall on the title track, all angular riffs over propulsive rhythm before Travis and then Etheridge spiral off into hairy soloing. They return to this muscular template throughout, with detours into pastoral calm and bursts of group improvisation. Two oldies, the pretty The Man Who Waved At Trains and the mighty Out-Bloody-Rageous, are effectively reprised before they sign out with an ambient bliss-out from Travis’s multitracked flutes. Musical styles that once sounded furiously cutting-edge today sound almost cosily familiar, but the themes are strong and the playing first-rate. Could even make jazz-rock cool again.