Undoubtedly one of the most collective psychedelic
experiences to ever go down in Oslo,
when British jazz-prog titans the Soft Machine played a concert at the city’s
fabled Henie Onstad Art Centre.
The date was February 28, 1971, and the band’s classic
line-up of keyboardist Mike Ratledge, the late sax great Elton Dean, the
recently departed Hugh Hopper on bass and drummer Robert Wyatt was on hand to
provide sonic accompaniment to the sensory films of their friend Mark Boyle,
whose art exhibition was a museum feature at the time. The group was in top
form on this night, playing the majority of their 1970 masterpiece Third (everything except for Wyatt’s
“Moon in June”) along with the entirety of 1971’s Fourth, which had just been released earlier that month, as Boyle’s
hallucinogenic imagery was projected on a giant screen behind them.
The performance was recorded utilizing an ambient technique
designated at the time for classical music concerts and had been hibernating
safely in the Henie audio archives for the last 39 years before the folks at
Reel Recordings were granted permission by the gallery and the surviving
members of the Soft Machine to release this extraordinary concert as a 2-CD
set, which also contains a CD-ROM filled with extensive notes and stunning photos from the show, as well as
a well-written essay on Mark Boyle’s light shows written by his brother and
fellow artist Sebastian.
The results are nothing short of the finest live document of
The Soft Machine out there, if only to serve as a reminder of just how much of
a monster the amazing Mr. Wyatt (in one of his final shows with the band before
departing to form Matching Mole) was on the drumkit before his paralyzing fall from
a third story window in 1973. For any fan of the group’s immortal Third line-up, Live at Henie Onstad Art Centre
1971 is a crucial addition to your collection.
Tracks: “Facelift”, “Slightly All The Time”, “Kings and Queens”,
“Noisette” RON HART