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While the instrumental Fourth had forayed deep into jazz-rock territory, Fifth found Soft Machine working almost completely in the jazz idiom.
As Soft Machine moved further away from rock on Third [MOVLP183] and Fourth [MOVLP1602], drummer/vocalist Robert Wyatt's dissatisfaction with the band's direction grew and, by the time sessions started for Fifth in late 1971, he had left permanently to form Matching Mole.
Wyatt's replacement Phil Howard's propulsive rhythms make a vital contribution to memorable Ratledge compositions like "All White" and "Drop" as they gather momentum and coalesce into driving grooves. "All White" is focused largely on Elton Dean's sax performance while "Drop" ultimately showcases the intense busy fuzz of Ratledge's organ.
This is essentially a jazz record, more concerned with texture and interplay than with song-based structures. It's a trip alright.