One of the most inventive bands of the late 60s, Soft Machine applied jazz disciplines to the burgeoning wave of psychedelia, producing challenging music that heavily influenced a number of dreaded 'prog rock' acts. But let's not hold that against them. Formed by Robert Wyatt (vocals, drums) and Kevin Ayers (bass), the duo enlisted keyboard player Mike Ratledge and Aussie guitarist Daevid Allen to form Soft Machine. With Allen encountering visa problems, the remaining trio issued their eponymous debut LP in 1968, but Ayers left shortly afterwards, to be replaced by Hugh Hopper for 1969's 'Volume 2'. 'Third' (1970) added a horn section to the group, but as 'Fourth' (1971) delved deeper in the world of jazz fusion, a frustrated Wyatt left to pursue a solo career. With the departure of Ratledge in 1976, the band was effectively over, although other line-ups continued to use the name into the 80s.