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Robert Wyatt

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Robert Wyatt lived in Spain for several years, and this experience informs many of the songs on this album. Like his previous full length album, Old Rottenhat, this is a completely solo work, although his wife Alfreda Benge (who has also painted his album covers since Rock Bottom) wrote the lyrics for about half of the songs, and the closing number was co written with former Soft Machine colleague Hugh Hopper.

The main instruments on this album are piano and the top half of a drum kit, with some synthesiser and electric keyboard embellishments. At times the sound is close to parts of Rock Bottom, with his oddly hesitant piano and minimal percussion backing some highly idiosyncratic and personal songs. The songs written with his wife are beautifully observed snapshots of life in Spain (she writes with a real painter's eye for detail) whilst his own lyrics are all concerned in one way or another with his political beliefs. The title track espouses the Palestinian cause, whilst Left On Man expresses his position with an almost haiku like simplicity: "You say I over simplify well yes so did Albert Einstein/ There simply is no middle ground pentagon uber alles" Wyatt's voice remains an acquired taste, and for those who love his style of singing the relatively uncluttered backing allows his directness and honesty to shine through.

Dondestan is not as essential as Shleep or Cuckooland, but it is a strong album in its own right with plenty for fans of his earlier solo work or Matching Mole to enjoy. The more recent CD reissue has a different running order and also features a 20 minute interview with the man himself.

Report this review (#29850)
Posted Friday, March 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars By the early 90's, Wyatt had become a fixture of the underground, pilling up the albums of equal quality and political caliber since Rock Bottom. With Dondestan (Wher'ryou?), he seems to be a tad more inspired and a little subtler in his political rants (here, penned by wifie Alfie). With a very static drawing gracing the cover (a bit reminiscent of RISTR), this is very obviously the couple at a seaside resort in Spain, where they resided for a few years.

Music-wise, Wyatt still hasn't changed his style, the songs being depressive and full of KB layers that would be dronal if they weren't binary (two notes). The song themes seem to be axed onto religion, more than actual politics, and if the accordion has disappeared, harmonica (or a melodica? Difficult to say) pops in for an odd solo (Jeebies), but early on in the album, there is not that much to rejoice upon, as it sounds more of the same, but slightly updated.

However, unlike the previous albums, there are some experiments like the weird Shrinkrap, with a highly synthetic beat and a weird oddball piano (in its bass register) providing some humor and entertainment. Some of the latter tracks in the album are combined, like Left On Man and Lisp Service (the latter in collab with Hugh Hopper) and make for an interesting moment and even a slight nod at Matching Mole or Rock Bottom. The next combo is the 11-min+ NIO/Dondestan, where Robert upheaves the UK's order over a low Canterbury-esque organ, before going nutty with an absurd piano and crazy percussions in the title track, in a very burlesque almost Daevid-ian way, before the organ comes back for a slow death. .

While Dondestan is in the rough average of Wyatt albums and an improvement on recent history of his, due to a much stronger second half of the album, but it's definitely not enough to raise the album above the floating line. Prefer this one over OR, but certainly not over Shleep.

Report this review (#166039)
Posted Tuesday, April 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars Another charming release from Mr.Wyatt. I really relate to some of the lyrics on this record that are like snapshots of his life on the beach during his stay in Spain. Even the album cover makes me feel good. It's all because I live near a beach and spend a lot of time down there. Wyatt plays all the instruments, and it's cool his wife wrote the lyrics for 5 tracks, with Robert writing the words for other five. Hugh Hopper composed the music for "Lisp Service". I have the remastered version which was mixed at Phil Manzanera's Gallery Studios.

"CP Jeebies" is mellow with piano and light drums.It's Wyatt's vocals that make this such great track. "N.I.O. (New Information Order)" has some wonderful atmosphere to it. I really like the over one minute intro before the vocals come in. "Dondestan" was quite annoying the first few times I heard it but this silly song makes me laugh now. It helped reading the lyrics to it. Waves of sound come in after 3 minutes as Wyatt does his vocal melodies. "Sight Of The Wind" is a great song about the beach and a storm that allowed the rubbish to dance. As Wyatt sings waves of sounds and different noises provide the backdrop.

"Shrinkrap" features piano and fast paced vocals that come and go. We hear drums and pulsating sounds as well. I like it. "Catholic Architecture" is slow paced with atmosphere. More waves of sound to end it. Yeah the beach is all over this album. "Worship" has some excellent lyrics. Funny but thought provoking. I really like Robert's vocals in this one and the overall sound. "Costa" features the best drum work on the record that starts a minute in. "Left On Man" has a catchy beat with biting words. I like the vocal arrangements. "Lisp Service" is another song with some atmosphere especially late.

There is a drawing of the beach in the liner notes, as well as a photo of the sun sinking below the water as it sets. Just like at home here. I agree with Syzygy that this is a strong album that is worth 4 stars.

Report this review (#168655)
Posted Thursday, April 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Dondestan" is the 5th full-length studio album by UK progressive rock artist Robert Wyatt. The album was originally released through Rough Trade Records in 1991 but according to the liner notes Robert Wyatt exceeded his planned studio time and the album was mixed and mastered in a rush. In 1998 Robert Wyatt was given the chance to remix and remaster the album, which was then re-released as "Dondestan (Revisited)". Not only is the album remixed and remastered but the track order is also different on the 1998 version.

The music featured on the album is unmistakably the sound of Robert Wyatt. Rather minimalistic and predominantly melancholic experimental rock with a touch of jazz. I say predominantly melancholic because as always Robert Wyatt´s great warm humour also shines through on tracks like the "Shrinkrap" and on the title track. The album was recorded solely by Robert Wyatt who sings with his fragile voice and distinct sounding vocals, plays keyboards, drums and percussion. In that respect "Dondestan" reminds me of his previous studio album release "Old Rottenhat (1985)". "Dondestan" features a much better and more well sounding production than it´s predecessor though.

The album features a lot of strong material but it´s the melancholic tracks like "NIO (New Information Order)" and "Sight Of The Wind" that take the prize. They leave emotional impact and a level of intensity that only Robert Wyatt can produce. All compositions are written by Robert Wyatt except "Lisp Service" which is co-written with former Soft Machine colleague Hugh Hopper. Some of the lyrics are written by his wife Alfreda Benge

"Dondestan" is upon conclusion another strong album by Robert Wyatt and a testimony to the fact that he was as inspired in 1991 as he was in 1974 when he recorded "Rock Bottom" which is still arguably his masterpiece and most famous work. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

Report this review (#227019)
Posted Thursday, July 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Robert Wyatt has not been a prolific artist releasing only two proper studio albums in both the '80s and '90s. Dondestan was his first '90s release, almost 6 years after his previous album Old Rottenhat, but this time span wasn't considered enough to record the album since it was re-released in 1998 with a different mix and track ordering under the title Dondestan (Revisited). This is also the version that I'm going to talk about in my review.

The album shows us another very laid back and relaxed style from the artist which can partly be connected to the stripped-down style of the album where all the instruments are played by Robert Wyatt. Once again it is difficult not to think back to the much more emotional side that was shown by the artist on his masterpiece Rock Bottom. The music on Dondestan (Revisited) might be of a similar style and offer a slightly better sound quality but it completely lacks to convey any personality and feels like just another offering that doesn't add anything new or exciting to anyone who isn't already big fan of Robert Wyatt's music.

The only songs that can be highlighted here are the an unexpectedly cheery piece called Dondestan that adds an underlying moody layer halfway through the composition and then completely takes over the track towards the end. I like how the transition was conducted but the first bit of the tune was too repetitious for my taste. Shrinkrap is the closest we get to anything resembling experimental music which is definitely something that I would have wanted to hear more on this release. Left On Man is the only track out of remainder of the material that features some memorable percussion work that sticks out more than most other moments.

Dondestan (Revisited) is generally a very predictable album since it doesn't go outside the style and direction that Robert Wyatt had carved out for himself on his previous releases. There are a few minor experiments but they honestly don't hold a candle to what he did earlier in his career. Still, there isn't really anything particularly wrong with the album which is why it would be unfair to award it anything lower than the good, but non-essential rating it deserves.

**** star songs: CP Jeebies (4:06) N.I.O. (New Information Order) (6:39) Sight Of The Wind (5:01) Shrinkrap (3:53) Catholic Architecture (5:04) Worship (5:55) Costa (Memories Of Under Development) (4:11) Left On Man (3:33) Lisp Service (2:12)

*** star songs: Dondestan (5:02)

Report this review (#283675)
Posted Thursday, May 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Robert Wyatt followed up the Casio-tastic Old Rottenhat with one of his strangest albums, which emerged first in 1991 in a somewhat rushed mix due to running out of time and recording budget. Later, thanks in part to the success of Shleep, a new remix of the album would emerge entitled Dondestan Revisited, which teases out the subtleties of the compositions. Like Old Rottenhat, it's a multi-instrumentalist effort with strongly politicised lyrics and more than a touch of free jazz influence here and there, and I certainly wouldn't recommend it to anyone new to Wyatt's discography (especially when the gorgeous Rock Bottom is such a brilliant starting point). At the same time, it builds on the quirky foundations of its predecessor admirably and is an intriguing experiment in its own right.
Report this review (#1141996)
Posted Wednesday, March 5, 2014 | Review Permalink

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