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Robert Wyatt - Shleep CD (album) cover


Robert Wyatt


Canterbury Scene

3.86 | 160 ratings

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4 stars "Be in the air, but not be air, be in the no air." This album has a sleep and dream theme.

It was one of those fortunate coincidences that my truck cassette player had quit working and I was forced to listen to radio. I was driving home from work and one of the few stations I could stand to listen to was a public radio one. I caught a National Public Radio piece on Robert Wyatt. I was somewhat familiar with his work with early Soft Machine. I had a few LP's and one CD, but was totally unaware of Robert's solo albums.

The biographical stuff was rather interesting, but it was the excerpts from Shleep that really blew me away. I ordered a copy first thing when I got home. This album stands out as one of the most impressive releases of 1997 I've heard, even though looking at my collection there's a lot of cool stuff that I didn't become aware of until several years later.

I was already familiar with three of the guest musicians: Philip Catherine, Brian Eno, and Phil Manzanera. Good friends to have, indeed.

The opening track Heaps of Sheep is rather humorous piece about trying to fall asleep and the sheep he's counting piling up. Eno contributes vocals and synthesizer.

Duchess is a song about his wife, sort of a rap or beat poetry style singing. Eno's here again on synth and Wyatt plays something he calls a Polish fiddle. There may actually be such a thing but I suspect he's taken a page from Eno/Fripp and naming the playing style of an instrument as a new instrument in and of itself.

Maryan is a really beautiful track about water. It's the one with Philip Catherine. Nice and peaceful though the lyrics: "Back through the wavering weeds And the turds In the way Riversmell On the route"

Was A Friend has Hugh Hopper with a co credit but not a musician's appearance, lyrics I'm guessing. A song about a dream about an old friend. Wyatt on all the instruments except for a vocal from his wife.

Free Will and Testament is rather touching. I'm going to take a chance here and quote the whole lyrics because I found them and still do find them very moving:

"Given free will but within certain limitations, I cannot will myself to limitless mutations, I cannot know what I would be if I were not me, I can only guess me.

So when I say that I know me, how can I know that? What kind of spider understands arachnophobia? I have my senses and my sense of having senses. Do I guide them? Or they me?

The weight of dust exceeds the weight of settled objects. What can it mean, such gravity without a centre? Is there freedom to un-be? Is there freedom from will-to-be?

Sheer momentum makes us act this way or that way. We just invent or just assume a motivation. I would disperse, be disconnected. Is this possible? What are soldiers without a foe?

Be in the air, but not be air, be in the no air. Be on the loose, neither compacted nor suspended. Neither born nor left to die.

Had I been free, I could have chosen not to be me. Demented forces push me madly round a treadmill. Demented forces push me madly round a treadmill. Let me off please, I am so tired. Let me off please, I am so very tired."

September the Ninth is a cool jazzy piece with Robert's wife apparently contributing the lyrics. About a woman taking flight..

Phil Manzanera joins in for Alien, more lyrics from his wife, quite surreal. About alienation and not space aliens. It has a djembe player on it, too.

Out of Season is a short New Orleans Jazzyish piece about a little bird. Lyrics by Alfie (Alfreda Benge) again.

A Sunday in Madrid has a rambling set of lyrics, just a lazy day on the weekend. Eno's back with synth and synth bass.

Blues in Bob Minor is a tribute piece, of sorts, to the music of Bob Dylan.

The album wraps up with The Point of No Return, a short somber ethereal instrumental. Well, it does have vocals as instruments but no lyrics.

Slartibartfast | 4/5 |


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