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Robert Wyatt - Shleep CD (album) cover

SHLEEP

Robert Wyatt

 

Canterbury Scene

3.78 | 86 ratings

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ghost_of_morphy
Prog Reviewer
3 stars We've all had that experience where we hear an album, appreciate the artistic qualities in it, and finally end up just not liking it. Gentle Giant's In A Glass House is a good example of that for me. I can listen to it and I'll end up thinking that sure this is something I SHOULD like, but I just don't.

Anyhow, we are talking about the much rarer opposite phenomenon today. I know that I should detest Robert Wyatt's Shleep, but something keeps bringing me back to it.

Now, why should I detest Shleep, I ask. Let's start with the vocals. Wyatt's vocals are odd to begin with, and he makes them odder still by simulating an unsure and confused voice in appropriate parts of the songs. Add to this some extremely faux naive lyrics and you have vocal performance where everything seems to run out of control in an amateurish way. We could call the vocals dreamy, but they are the opposite of the kind of dreamy that, say, Jon Anderson does in Prince Rupert's Lament. Everything here is plodding, uncertain, and barely on course. And yet it works, in a weird way.

Now the second thing about Shleep that I really should hate is all of the odd sounds in it. There is nearly always a basic background that sound fine (usually piano or guitar backed by percussion) but then there is usually a layer over it of sounds that appear to be odd and amateurish. Sometimes it will be the violin, sometimes the trumpet, sometimes some extra percussion, but it's nearly always present. The Duchess is probably the best example of this, as the odd sounds eventually end up taking over the song in the middle, and we have something like The Waiting Room off of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, although with the intention of being a song instead of an interlude. I should find this extremely annoying, but I don't. There's some kind of simple charm in following those odd, jazzy, eccentric riffs. And while they sound amateurish, they aren't (although Wyatt would be better served by letting somebody else play trumpet.)

Ok, I've mentioned all of the negative stuff, so let me try to explain what the charm of this album is, even though I barely comprehend it myself. All of the things that I mention add up to some extremely interesting but subtle musical plays against a soothing, repetitious, almost chant-like atmosphere. The album drones on and on, but there is always something interesting to pay attention to at any given time. This is an album that really rewards careful listening. If it is just playing in the background, people won't even begin to understand why I am saying that it is a good album. And it is a very good album.

I'm giving it three stars. It's a good album and definitely worth a spin, but it's not going to be a gem in your collection. Instead, it's going to be a guilty pleasure that you listen to more than you think you should.

ghost_of_morphy | 3/5 |

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