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Soft Machine Across the World. Part 2

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Life in Tokyo. 29 July 2018


Friday was pretty chilled. When arriving in Japan one expects the crazy night is day and day is night topsy turvy world of jet lag, as so beautifully portrayed in the Bill Murray film 'Lost in Translation' and this is exactly what happened. We stayed up late on Thursday but then I could not sleep. When I did, however, I woke up at 6am. Which is UK 10pm the night before. Eh?! I got up at about 7.30am and ventured to take a shower. I have observed that however many hotels you stay in when on tour in however many countries, you never see the same shower system twice. They are always different. In this hotel there was a shower in a wet room with a glass door. and also windows into the bedroom and facing the high rise blocks opposite. I knew this would mean that water would get everywhere (with additional opportunity for maximum public humiliation) so entered with trepidation. There was a nozzle just above the floor and two hand held shower hoses neither pointing anywhere near the bath tub. With three temperature and pressure knobs, I was keen to control this beast and turned the knobs slowly to make sure I knew what controlled what, and where the water was going to come from. What I did not see was the massive rain shower head in the ceiling that sprayed freezing water all over me. It was a shock, and not a pleasant one. Argh!

Breakfast was fab', if a little curious. Usual eggs, sausage, croissant, juice, fruit and coffee. Yes, but also Japanese cuisine including Miso soup, Chinese porridge, green beans in peanut and sesame sauce, and various fried, pickled and boiled dishes, not to mention the matcha green tea cake, amazing vegetable smoothie...and err...conger eel.. I played it safe and did not try the less familiar dishes, so it was really good. On a previous Japan trip I remember seeing whale meat offered in a breakfast buffet but thankfully not here.

I took it easy during the day going for a short walk in a beautiful local park in Tokyo midtown, reading and meeting up with the others for coffee. We actually all went back to walk round the same park with it's lake, it's rest house and sculpted gardens. There was a deafening roar of insects and one particular large cicada (I think) which sounded like a cross between a chainsaw played through a wah wah pedal and the screeching alien that burst out of John Hurt's stomach in the first 'Alien' film by Ridley Scott. It was an unbelievable sound.

Unfortunately John Marshall's suitcase had still not arrived and later in the day we were informed that the airline 'had lost track of it - they had no idea where it was at all...'. Hats off to John, he took it well and just got on with it, working out where to get new drum sticks from and replacement clothes etc. Later, dinner was in a recommended Japanese restaurant and about ten of us went. We were later to be joined by the New York jazz guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg who was in town playing with organist Lonnie Smith. Cool guy and interesting stories were told about various jazz players on the scene and shared experiences in the music world. We later went to a small bar where there were instruments set up and Gary Husband and John Etheridge had a free form improv' session which I joined in with on the Fender Rhodes piano there. Some fast and furious playing ensued which sounded great to me but the bar owner said 'play something nice, more smooth please....,' so obligingly Gary got on the piano and duetted on the song 'Lover Man' with John on guitar which was beautiful.



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Soft Machine Across the World. Part 1

Return to Japan. 26 July 2018.


And so the big tour begins. On Wednesday, I met up with band members John Etheridge, Roy Babbington and John Marshall at London Heathrow Terminal 2 for our trip to Japan. In fact our fourth trip to that fantastical, intriguing, beautiful and curious country where music is so very much appreciated and up to the minute advanced technology coexists with certain very traditional cultural values. I have brought a book to read by Murakami (Norwegian Wood) which may give additional insight into life in Japan.

We met at one of the many restaurants in the Terminal and whilst paying our bill I received a helpful e mail from the airline 'Your flight has been cancelled'. Oh joy, here we go, thought I. For this trip we were flying via Frankfurt, so there were more opportunities for things to go wrong than usual. We were told to collect our luggage from the arrivals hall baggage claim and ventured to do so. Unfortunately three of our cases never came off the belt and along with several other irate passengers we were told (for two hours) the belt was broken, our luggage was somewhere else half a mile away and it 'should' come on belt four...or seven...or three 'soon'. One of our number (whose bag did appear) had previously decided to upgrade to Premium Economy and he had been allocated a flight on another airline direct to Tokyo, so he went, whilst we waited for our cases. Eventually they did arrive and we were told to go back to Departures and arrange another flight. This took ages but we did it and then got a shuttle to another Terminal from where we were to fly to Paris. We were told that in Paris we needed to get new boarding passes for the second leg of the journey and 'probably' would not have to collect our cases and recheck them in. Then wait the wait for our flight. Well we got to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport and walked and walked and walked as the airport is huge. However no one knew about the cases and although I eventually got my boarding pass, two of us were told the flight was overbooked, so it was not definite they would get on the plane! It was now twelve hours since I had left home and we were still not on our way to Japan. At nearly midnight we boarded the plane to Tokyo and I found my seat. Being a tall person, sitting cramped in Economy for twelve hour flights is no fun, so you can imagine my sheer delight at finding out I had been given a bulk head seat. No one in front of me, no having to say 'excuse me' or wake someone up every time I wanted to stand up, and enough leg room to stretch out. That is worth a small fortune and boy did I appreciate it.

So now, after our twenty six hour journey, we are all here in Roppongi, Tokyo. I first came here an amazing twenty one years ago on a JBK tour - with the wonderful Steve Jansen, Richard Barbieri, Mick Karn (RIP) and Steven Wilson. It was for a month all round Japan and an amazing tour with other artists such as DJ Krush and Sugizo. It was the first time I toured with Steven Wilson and we have been friends ever since. All the guys were great fun and the music fabulous and I have very fond memories of that crazy time. I have toured in Japan eight times now - the other times being with Gong and Soft Machine. I remember one trip with Gong was to the Mount Fuji rock festival alongside Paul Weller and Oasis. I will always remember seeing Liam Gallagher walk up to Passport control at the airport with the biggest cockiest swagger you can imagine. It could only have been him and it made me laugh.

Last night we went for some sashimi, noodles and tempura at the most buzzing vibey restaurant called Eat Tokyo, humming with young professionals shooting the breeze and relaxing after a day in the office. Curiously there were few mobile phones out, lots of people smoking (where do you see that in restaurants these days?) and it was incredibly loud with the sound of chat and laughter. Then a quick nightcap at a music bar called 'SoftWind' (well we are Soft Machine and I am the wind player, so it seemed logical). The bar was on the fifth floor of a block, tiny and looked like it could hold about 20 people. They often have duos playing either classical music or Japanese traditional music there. The bar owner got very excited when we said we were the band Soft Machine, and after googling us to check our story out, he asked us to sign autographs before giving us all free drinks and cake!

Today we acclimatise and the first gig is tomorrow at Billboard Live, Tokyo. We are playing with a special guest - the incredible talent that is Gary Husband, who is playing piano with us. Really looking forward to it all

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Travis and Fripp Apps

Released on 6th July and following over two years in development, Theo together with pioneering guitar legend Robert Fripp and software designer and composer Peter Chilvers are delighted to announce the release on the App store for IPhone and IPad a trilogy of apps featuring the unique music of Travis & Fripp.

Each app features a different selection of performances by Travis and Fripp – contrasting in mood and key. This trilogy of apps recreates the unpredictable dynamics of live performance, creating a new experience on each listen.

The three apps utilise a wide selection of music performances by the pair of musicians ingeniously designed to work together in infinite permutations. Both Travis and Fripp have recorded brand new music for the apps in the studio in 2018, but these performances blend and combine with others gathered from live multi-tracks from the albums: Live at Coventry Cathedral, Thread, Discretion and Between the Silence (2018 3CD) and also concert recordings from Malaga, Madrid, Newlyn, Rome, Broad Chalke and the Bath Fringe Festival.

Developed by Peter Chilvers, who has previously collaborated with Brian Eno on the apps Bloom, Trope and Reflection, each recombines a selection of performances painstaking assembled by Travis from multi-track recordings from over a decade of collaboration, enabling old performances to mix with new, studio recordings to mix with live, and exclusive unreleased material to play with familiar performances.

The apps present a unique type of performance of musical texture and space, the building of long slow melodies, and the creation of slowly shifting harmonic soundscapes. Once the apps are started they will play continuously allowing endless performances by this remarkable duo.

Each app has its own flavour and unique slowly flowing beautiful visuals responding specifically to the music.

The apps can be purchased from the Apple App store individually (£2.99/$2.99/3.49Euros) or as together at a reduced price. Just search the Apple App store for Travis Fripp.

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Travis and Fripp - New 3 CD Album News

'New 3 CD album – out 6 July 2018

Travis and Fripp - 'Between the Silence'

Label Panegyric

Travis & Fripp has proved to be one of the most enduring of Robert Fripp's many duo projects – all the more remarkable really, given that both musicians are consistently involved in other projects; for Fripp, a renewed King Crimson has been a primary musical enterprise since 2014, while Theo has been busy with Steven Wilson continues as a member of Soft Machine, and writes and leads his band Double Talk While this has meant that plans for further Travis & Fripp concerts have proved impossible to schedule at present, work has continued on the music already recorded.

Between the Silence presents a specially priced 3CD set comprising three complete concerts recorded in 2009 and 2010. As with so much music where improvisation is central, a core element, hearing the performances as heard on the respective nights allows the listener to enter more fully into the spirit in which the music originated, while the differences in venues, acoustics and even size of audience impacts upon the manner in which the duo approaches each concert. Most of the music featured is new to CD with only two tracks having appeared in different / edited form on the album Follow.

As ever the music produced by Travis & Fripp remains wonderfully difficult to neatly categorise – sometimes quiet, but never to the extent that it could be described as 'ambient' – improvisational, but not in such a manner as to call it 'jazz' - using electronics, but not resulting in music that could be described as 'electronica'. It is, nonetheless, music that has touched a great many people – both in concert and as presented on discs – with this release marking the duo's fifth recorded release.

Given that cheerful defiance of categorisation, it is probably no surprise that other methods are being employed to bring the music to an even wider audience. Simultaneous with the preparation of the music for the album, a series of three generative music apps based on the music of Travis & Fripp has been developed. Each app will play a unique combination of elements of Travis & Fripp performances every time it is opened. It is due to be available later this summer for iPhones and iPads.

  Place orders here.
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New Soft Machine album ‘Hidden Details’

In September 2018, Soft Machine release their new studio album 'Hidden Details'. This is the first Soft Machine album (as opposed to Soft Machine Legacy album ) in 37 years – since 'In the Land of Cockayne'. It features John Etheridge (guitar) Roy Babbington (bass) and John Marshall (drums) alongside Theo on Tenor and Soprano saxes, flute and alto flute and Fender Rhodes electric piano.

PRE-ORDER HERE for 7 September release £10 plus P&P

Theo has written four tunes for the album and there are arrangements of two classic Soft Machine tracks – Out Bloody Rageous (from Third) and The Man who Waved at Trains (from Bundles) . There are also various group improvisations. The music is broad ranging from psychedelia to jazz rock to free form improv' to simple pop-ish tunes to hypnotic mood pieces.

There is a CD version available (Dyad) and a special limited edition vinyl version available (Tonefloat).

PRE-ORDER VINYL EDITIONS HERE

The vinyl edition includes a whole side – 6 pieces - exclusive to that edition.

The vinyl version comes in 3 versions – orange vinyl, blue vinyl and a super limited tour edition orange and blue marbled vinyl only available from the merchandise stall on the tour itself. Only 200 copies of this super limited edition will be made, so it will be both rare and highly sought after.

With the release of the album the band featuring John Etheridge, Theo Travis, Roy Babbington and John Marshall will go on a Soft Machine 50 Years World Tour celebrating 50 years since the first Soft Machine album. The band will be touring as follows-

2018

July – Japan and Canada

September – European Tour

October – USA Tour

November – UK Tour

For full tour schedule and gigs details, see live dates page.

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