Hugh Hopper
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

1984 (1973), 7/10
Tunity Box (1977), 6/10
Two Rainbows Daily (1980), 6/10
Meccano Pelorus (1991), 5/10
Alive (1993), 5/10
And Odd Friend (1993), 5/10
Hooligan Romantics (1994), 5/10
Remark Hugh Made (1994), 6.5/10
Carousel (1995), 6/10
Adreamor (1995), 5/10
Precisely The Opposite (1995), 5/10
Hughscore: Caveman Hughscore (1995), 7/10
Somewhere In France (1996), 5/10
Elephants In Your Head (1997), 5/10
Huge (1997), 5/10
Hughscore: Hispabox (1997), 6/10
The Mind In The Trees (1998), 5/10
Different (1999), 5/10
Hughscore: Delta Flora (1999), 6.5/10
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Soft Machine's bassist Hugh Hopper debuted solo with 1984 (CBS, 1973), one of the most futuristic albums of the Canterbury school (fuzz bass, loops, overdub). The 14-minute Miniluv was entirely performed by Hopper on bass and assorted electronic devices. Dispensing with melody and rhythm, Hopper sculpted an eerie soundscape of free timbres. The 17-minute Miniplenty is also a free-form fresco but its emphasis is on the discontinuous sounds of percussion, and the electronic sounds are violent and distorted. The initial Don Cherry-ian atmosphere soon turns into an Edgar Varese-ian nightmare and ends in a dissonant mockery of jazz-rock. Sandwiched between the two lengthy pieces were two short jams with a more conventional free/bop ensemble, Minipax 1 (Lol Coxhill on soprano and Gary Windo on tenor, two trombones, guitar, drums and Hopper) and Minipax 2 (bass clarinet, two trombones, percussion and Hopper), but the music was hardly conventional at all, relying on nonchalant repetition of folkish themes and (the latter) studio manipulation.

After brief stints in Isotope and Gilgamesh, Hopper recorded his second solo album, and a collaboration with Dean, Tippett and Gallivan, Cruel But Fair (Compendium, 1976), Tunity Box (Compendium, 1977 - Cuneiform, 2007), which failed to recreate the magic of 1984 despite a line-up that included Elton Dean (sax), Mark Charig (cornet), Dave Stewart (keyboards) and Gary Windo (sax), and despite a few captivating themes (the grandiloquent Tunity Box, the exuberant Latin-tinged Miniluv the noir-jazzy The Lonely Sea and the Sky, the funky Crumble) and the aggressive eight-minute jazz-rock jam of Gnat Prong.

Hopper then joined Elton Dean's Soft Head and its subsequent mutations.

Two Rainbows Daily (Red, 1980), Hopper's collaboration with former Gilgamesh's keyboardist Alan Gowen, was several albums in one. Mellotron-driven pieces such as Seen Through a Door display a melodic pomp and a narrative dynamics that merged King Crimson's prog-rock and Brian Eno's electronic pop. Eno's influence is strong also on the atmospheric exotic-folk-jazz vignette Morning Order while Gowen's Eastern meditation Fishtank 1 echoes John McLaughlin and Every Silver Lining echoes Terry Riley's whirling minimalism. But Elibom is merely a study in bass-electronics interaction, and Chunka's Troll was a simple jazz-rock jam, and Little Dream was a ghostly free-jazz fragment.
Gowen played piano on some of the most memorable numbers, concocting a mastery fusion of neoclassical and jazz piano in Two Rainbows Daily and Soon to Fly, crafting a gentle, deceptively neoclassical mood in the nine-minute Waltz for Nobby, and intoning a pensive disjointed in Bracknell Ballad.

Meccano Pelorus (Wayside, 1991), recorded live in Holland in 1987/89, can be considered Hopper's third solo album, although the material is not all Hopper's.

Other collaborations around Europe yielded Alive (Voiceprint, 1993), featuring an all-Dutch band (Golden Section, Turfship Enterprise, Glider), And Odd Friend (Voiceprint, 1993), which is just a collection of unreleased material, Hooligan Romantics (Ponk, 1994), Carousel (Cuneiform, 1995), for a spirited sax-keyboards-guitar quintet, perhaps the best of the "Dutch" phase, that found Hopper in an unusually melodic mode (Shuffle Demons, Lock Stock And Barrel, the pensive Lux Beta), Adreamor (Impetus, 1995), improvised duets with guitarist Mark Hewins, Precisely The Opposite Of What We Now Know To Be True (Progressive International, 1995), credited to the Conglomerate, Mercy Dash (Culture Press, 1996), the second collaboration with Dean, Tippett and Gallivan, Somewhere In France (1996), with bassist Richard Sinclair, Elephants In Your Head (Voiceprint, 1997), credited to Mashu (percussionist Shyamal Maitra, Hopper, Hewins and Dean), The Mind In The Trees (Blueprint, 1998), with Dean and others.

Hugh Hopper and rock multi-instrumentalist Kramer came up with a more original project, Remark Hugh Made (Shimmy Disc, 1994), a collection of short instrumental rock tunes featuring saxophonist Gary Windo. Robert Wyatt writes and sings the only vocal track, Free Will & Testament. All In My Head, Hopper writes most of the others, which are generally inspired to simple repetitive folkish themes. But the real protagonist of the album is the arrangement. Hopper's and Kramer's bizarre minds get together to create spirited, surreal combinations while remaining within the song format, whether with the catchy and minimalist A Streetcar Named Desire (not too different from the skits of the Penguin Cafè Orchestra), the instrumental post-Hendrix noise-rock of The Twelve Chairs, the bombastic space-blues of This Island Earth, the percussive ballet with honking cars of Superthunderstingercar, the tragic, "heavy" and obsessive John Milton Is Dead (with a delirious sax solo), the Hopper-ian electronic jazz-rock of Sliding Dogs, solemn and grotesque melody of His Wife For A Hat (in two versions), or with the collage of spoken-word samples at free-jazzy rhythm of Lenny Bruce Sings. The duo followed it up with Huge (Shimmy Disc, 1997), a vastly inferior record despite a few surreal ditties (Waltz Of The Big Brains).

At the same time Hopper was beginning a collaboration with Caveman Shoestore, which yielded the moniker Caveman Hughscore and the album Caveman Hughscore (T/K, 1995). Hopper ci sorprende comunque nell'apologo brechtiano di More Than Nothing, nel cool jazz di "Dee Dum", e soprattutto nel finale soprannaturale di Panic, quando compare il ronzio alieno del didjeridu a tessere la tela di un mantra degno di Steve Roach.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Claudio Vespignani)

Il bassista dei Soft Machine Hugh Hopper debuttò da solo con 1984 (CBS 1973), uno dei dischi più futuristici della scuola

di Canterbury (con tanto di bassi fuzz, loop e sovraincisioni). Miniluv minipax1 Minipax 2 Minitrue Miniplenty Minitrue

reprise Miniluv (reprise) Miniluv (version 1) Miniluv (version 2) Minitrue minipax 2 (slow theme) Minipax 1 Minipax 2

(fast theme).

Dopo brevi apparizioni con Isotope e Gilgamesh, Hopper registrò il suo secondo album, Tunity box (Compendium 1977), che

non riuscì a ricreare la magia di 1984, nonostante una formazione che comprendeva Elton Dean (sax), Mark Charig (corno),

Dave Stewart (tastiere), Gary Windo (sax) e altri, e una manciata di temi accattivanti (Tunity box, Gnat prong, The lonely sea

and the sky, Secret oyster).

Successivamente Hopper si unì ai Soft Head di Elton Dean e alle sue conseguenti mutazioni, e registrò Two rainbows daily

(Red 1980) con il tastierista originario dei Gilgamesh Alan Gowen.

Meccano pelorus (Wayside 1991), registrato dal vivo nel 1987/1989 in Olanda, può essere considerato il suo terzo album,

nonostante il materiale non sia del tutto suo.

Altre collaborazioni in Europa figurano su Alive (Voiceprint 1993), che comprende un gruppo olandese (Golden section,

Turfship enterprise, Glider), And odd friend (Voiceprint 1993), che altro non è che una raccolta di materiale inedito,

Hooligan romantics (Ponk 1994), Carousel (Cuneiform 1995), forse il meglio della fase olandese (Lux Beta, Shuffle demons),

Adreamor (Impetus 1995), con dei duetti improvvisati col chitarrista Mark Hewins, Precisely the opposite of what we now

know to be true (Progressive International 1995), accreditato ai Conglomerate. Somewhere in France (1996), col bassista

Richard Sinclair, Elephants in your head (Voiceprint 1997), accreditato ai Mashu (il percussionista Shyamal Maitra, Hopper,

Hewins e Dean), The mind in the trees (Blueprint 1998), con Dean e altri.

Hugh Hopper e Kramer diedero vita ad un progetto più originale, Remark Hugh made (Shimmy Disc 1994), con il contributo

di Robert Wyatt che scrive e canta Free will & testament, il pezzo migliore. Hopper compone la maggior parte degli altri: A

streetcar named desire, The twelve chairs, This island earth, Superthunderstingercar, John Milton is dead, All in my

head, Sliding dogs, His wife for a hat, Lenny Bruce sings, His hat for a wife, Our final remark. Il duo gli darà un seguito

con Huge (Shimmy Disc 1997), un lavoro enormemente inferiore nonostante alcuni numeri surreali (Waltz of the big brains).

Contemporaneamente Hopper iniziava una collaborazione con i Caveman Shoestore, che cambiarono il loro nome in

Caveman Hughscore e registrarono il disco omonimo (T/K 1995).

Hopper ci sorprende comunque nell'apologo brechtiano di More Than Nothing, nel cool jazz di "Dee Dum", e soprattutto nel finale soprannaturale di Panic, quando compare il ronzio alieno del didjeridu a tessere la tela di un mantra degno di Steve Roach.
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Le musiche sono tutte di Hopper e risentono in parte dei suoi limiti storici: una certa banalita' nel riprendere i temi dell'avanguardia jazz-rock, una certa ripetitivita' negli arrangiamenti, una carenza di talento melodico che gli ha sempre impedito di scrivere canzoni memorabili. Con il passare degli anni la sua vera virtu' e' diventata l'austerita' dell'esecuzione, giunta a livelli degni della musica da camera. I brani piu' concettuali, come A Rabbit Or A Lemon) peccano della superbia intellettuale di cui furono emblemi gruppi come gli Art Bears, pur sfoderando classe inesauribile nell'accostare i gorgheggi aristocratici di Elaine DiFalco, i tempi sincopati di Fred Chalenor e Henry Franzoni, dissonanze di pianoforte (DiFalco) e figure astratte di fisarmonica (sempre DiFalco) e corno francese (Jen Harrison). Hopper ci sorprende comunque nell'apologo brechtiano di (More Than Nothing), con una fisarmonica da bistro` a contrappuntare una cadenza da musichall e i soliti ipnotismi minimalisti del pianoforte a tirare l'assolo crepitante del basso; nell'intermezzo cool jazz di Dee Dum, il momento piu' disgregato e improvvisato, imbevuto di vagiti psichedelici in un trepestio di bacchette; e soprattutto nel finale soprannaturale di (Panic), quando compare il ronzio alieno del didjeridu a tessere la tela di un mantra degno di Steve Roach.

The project Hughscore continued with High Spot Paradox (T/K, 1997), a calmer and warmer affair (Against The Wheel, Once Upon A Babysitter, Last Word Tango).

On the third Hughscore album, Delta Flora (Cuneiform, 1999), the quartet of Hopper (bass), Fred Chalenor (bass), Elaine DiFalco (vocals, accordion, keyboards) and Tucker Martine (drums), frequently augmented with Elton Dean's alto saxophone, was in top form, playing mostly instrumental high-energy jazz-rock that doesn't scream (the eight-minute Facelift, the nine-minute Based On), assembling ghostly psychedelic noise (Robohop), intoning feathery nocturnal bebop tunes (Remind Me), and radiating fragile textures of supernatural ecstasy (Tokitae) DiFalco often stole the show, delivering charming downtempo ballads (Was A Friend, Based On) as well as more complex melodies (Ramifications, over fractured industrial polyrhythms).

Different (Blueprint, 1999) was a collaboration between Hopper and Lisa Klossner.

Keith Tippett, Elton Dean, Hugh Hopper and John Marshall also formed SoftWare.

Bone was a power-trio formed by Nick Didkovsky, Hugh Hopper and John Roulat (Forever Einstein's drummer). They debuted with Uses Wrist Grab (Cuneiform, 2003). Their heavy-metal workouts are tempered by Didkovsky's computer processing and by Hopper's electronic effects.

The posthumous Frangloband (march 2003) featured Patrice Meyer on guitar, Pierre-Olivier Govin on baritone & alto saxes, Hugh Hopper on electric bass and Francois Verly on drums & tablas performing Hopper compositions.

NUmero D'Vol (2007) collects improvised jams with saxophonist Simon Picard, keyboardist Steve Franklin and drummer Charles Hayward.

Hugh Hopper died in 2009.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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