Soft Heap was a Canterbury scene supergroup founded in January 1978. The name references Soft Machine while "Heap" comes from the first letters of the band's founders: Hugh Hopper (bass), Elton Dean (saxophone), Alan Gowen (keyboards) and Pip Pyle (drums). Hopper and Dean had worked together in Soft Machine, while Gowen and Pyle had worked together in National Health. The band went on tour in 1978, but with Pyle busy with National Health, Dave Sheen replaced him and the name was changed to Soft Head.
Rogue Element, a live album from the Soft Head tour, was released in 1978, but the original Soft Heap line-up reconvened in October 1978 to record Soft Heap (released 1979). John Greaves (also from National Health) replaced Hopper in 1979-80, while 1981 saw a new line-up of Dean, Pyle, Greaves and Mark Hewins on guitar following Gowen's death that year.
The new line-up toured intermittently through the 1980s, occasionally including guests such as Fred Frith & Phil Minton. A Veritable Centaur(released 1996) is a live album largely taken from a 1982 French show, with one track from a 1983 BBC Radio 3 performance. Al Dente is a 2008 archival release of a 1978 show. The three other founding members all died in the 2000s.