Sunday, April 1, 2018

Hugh Hopper - 1976 - Hopper Tunity Box

Hugh Hopper 
Hopper Tunity Box

01. Hopper Tunity Box 3:35
02. Miniluv 3:36
03. Gnat Prong 7:59
04. The Lonely Sea And The Sky 6:39
05. Crumble 3:58
06. Lonely Woman 3:28
07. Mobile Mobile 5:05
08. Spanish Knee 3:52
09. Oyster Perpetual 3:11

Recorded May/July 1976 at Mobile Mobile

Hugh Hopper / bass, guitar, soprano sax, descant & tenor recorders, percussion, co-producer

Richard Brunton / guitar (2,5)
Dave Stewart / organ, pianet & oscillators (1,3,7)
Frank Roberts / electric piano (4,5,8)
Gary Windo / bass clarinet & sax (1,2,5,6)
Marc Charig / cornet & tenor horn (4,6,8)
Elton Dean / alto sax & saxello (4,6,9)
Mike Travis / drums (1-5,8)
Nigel Morris / drums (7)

Hopper's second solo album is a much easier affair than the 1984 debut album that was released around the end of his tenure with Soft Machine, but it is much more accessible as well. I've seen this album with two different artworks (both reproduced in the excellent Cuneiform re-issue), but in the line-up, there are few usual suspects, and many first time collabs, at least on record. Indeed if Stewart, Charig, Dean, Morris and Windo are old acquaintance, there are a few names that have escaped my radar until now: Brunton, Roberts and Travis.

Opening on the very riffy title track, the mood is set on a wild and energetic jazz-rock with the usual Canterbury twists (courtesy of Stewart fuzz organ) and it is pretty announcing the color for the whole album. There is a reprise of the Miniluv track from his debut solo 1984 album that's now much in line with this album. The album seems to return to its start, where it started down with the 8-mins Gnat Prong as a trio with Stewart's Rhodes, but it resembles much the opening title track.

Elton finally appears on the calm Lonely Sea with the help of Charig on winds, but here the electric piano is held by Frank Roberts, instead of Stewart. Most interesting is the Ornette Coleman-penned Lonely women where Hopper toys with electronic drones, bass and very slowed-down triple horn section (Dean, Charig & Windo), but it's nowhere near Ornette's usual free jazz. Mobile continues in the same vein but without the horns, with Stewart and ex-Isotope drummer Nigel Morris. The album closes on the best two tracks of the album, first the energetic Spamish Knee with Charig and Dean going at it full blast and the solemnly slow bass-only Oyster Perpetual

Hopper is still working on this album with loops as he was on his first 1984, slowing and speeding them up, so it's sometimes difficult to say whether it's the band or the tape that's responsible for the tempo increase. In either case HTB is definitely an easier album to grasp and is clearly a good if not brilliant example of Canterbury sound.