Robert Wyatt: Classic or Dud?

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So, is he the Alan Bennett/Stanley Spencer of pop or just a dodgy old failed jazzer with a Woolworth's Sooty organ and a propensity towards dubious scat-singing and Dave Spart lyrics? To paraphrase the immortal Bill Heine, "but what do YOU think?"

Marcello Carlin, Sunday, 15 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Good lord, Robert Wyatt makes Joni Mitchell and Simon & Garfunkel seem listenable by comparison.

Otis Wheeler, Sunday, 15 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Cripes, who needs a thread? Nobody's going to be able to top Otis, positive or negative.

I know his reputation more than his music -- but based on his two songs with Ultramarine, he's got a definite something.

Ned Raggett, Sunday, 15 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard: wheelchair rock, for cats who haven't bought enough records by handicapped people this week. From what I can tell, it set a new standard for wibbling British nonsense. It makes listening to Henry Cow records seem like an enjoyable experience. (Obviously it doesn't, I'm just exaggerating for effect.) You can guess how I feel about Soft Machine.

Otis Wheeler, Sunday, 15 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Like Ned, I've heard very little of Wyatt's music thus far, but I love his recordings of "Kingdom" and "Happy Land", which sound at once ancient and driving into the future, relevant equally at any point in a hundred-year timespan. I also love his version of Chic's "At Last I Am Free". Needless to say I think his embrace of communism was fucked from top to bottom, but I wouldn't hold that against him as a judgement.

Robin Carmody, Monday, 16 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

The communism I don't mind. It was the Stalinism I could never figure out. Muslimgauze's political stance in comparison seemed calm and sweetly reasoned.

Ned Raggett, Monday, 16 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

"Shleep" is definitely classic, even if it does have Paul bleedin' Weller on it. "Rock Bottom" isn't too far from classic, though it can sometimes feel a bit claustrophobic and muggy (to me, at least). His version of Chic's "At Last I Am Free" is an unmitigated joy.

Johnathan, Monday, 16 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I've been listening to a lot of Wyatt recently and revere the man immensely. (Not to mention having once upon a time put Soft Machine samples high in the Japanese singles charts with Kahimi Karie's 'Good Morning World.) 'Rock Bottom' is a lovely album. Great analogue synths, beautiful through and through. 'Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard' is also strong, more mannered, less melancholic. His voice has to be one of the most beautiful in pop music. Check out Pascal Comelade's version of Weill's September song, with Wyatt guesting. Nobody sings like that! I have less time for the jazzy noodling of Matching Mole, but Wyatt himself sits in my pantheon amongst the toppermost of the poppermost.

Momus, Monday, 16 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I still think that EC sang 'Shipbuilding' better than RW did. Artists always seem to say that cover versions are better than their own (original) versions - I don't know whether that's some kind of appropriate modesty, a pop convention, or whether, um, they actually always believe it, but I do sometimes find these views skewed. Perhaps that song wasn't a cover, cos it was written specially for RW, and EC was borrowing it back? Either way, I'd rather listen to EC.

the pinefox, Monday, 16 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

What he said.

Ally C, Monday, 16 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

It would figure that Pascal Comelade, possibly the only musician more insufferable than Robert Wyatt, would get mentioned in this thread.

Otis Wheeler, Monday, 16 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I love Robert Wyatt. Hardly listen to "Rock Bottom", never heard "Ruth...", but the late 70s early 80s stuff is the business - some amazing singles and a few brilliant album tracks, and his sad rocking-chair voice I could listen to for hours.

And the brilliant tracks include - yes - some political ones. "Alliance" for instance is reductionist and I don't agree with it (or more to the point I don't care about the actual political situation being described) BUT as a portrait of political disillusionment and betrayal it's superb and like a lot of great political songs it's a disappointed love song too - "It's hard to talk to enemies / And we are enemies / What we had in common / Makes it even worse".

Also m'lud take into account: "At Last I Am Free", "Shipbuilding", "Born Again Cretin", "Arauco", "Kingdom" and a large chunk of "Shleep" too.

Tom, Tuesday, 17 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Speaking a bit against him here now, I think we also have to take into account that he still thinks Paul Weller is a good idea. This operates under the assumption that 'Paul Weller' is a metaconstruct constructed from _The Who Sell Out_, an Italian suit from 1958, _Das Kapital_ and mulch.

Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 18 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I think _Rock Bottom_ is a pretty good record, and a life-affirming one despite its seeming darkness. There are some truly bad ideas on it, though (the long bass solo, the dancing-elves bit at the end, ugh) but then there are some pretty unusual textures and melodies to counterbalance that. The first Soft Machine album is damn clever, too, and not in that bad clever way. And it rocks. I didn't really dig much of his other stuff. (and how classic: "Oh, I only like his early stuff")

I would hardly rank him in the same league as Simon and Garfunkel; I haven't heard anything on Soft Machine 3 or greater, but it can't be as staggeringly annoying as "Cecilia". Uff da.

Jacob Anderson, Wednesday, 18 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

i think pretty much everything Robt. W. ever sang or played on is GREAT, GREAT, GREAT (& Henry Cow suck but Slapp Happy were awesome 7 FredFrith's solo gtr album is awesome too), but you know who i've been enjoying most out of that Canterbury- scene sorta stuff recently, is Kevin Ayers. I guess he's a comparively minor artist (compared to Wyatt) but man, his 1st 2 albums (3rd one too probably but i still haven't heard it) are the biz.
(& the best Soft Machine stuff is the stuff with him, no q.)

duane zarakov, Thursday, 19 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

& hey ned, excellent metadeconstruction ,or whatever one would say, of P. Weller......except his "Who Sell Out" days are way behind him, I'd say by now he's up to about "Who By Numbers"...specifically probaly something like "Squeeze Box". Or maybe more like one of Humble Pie's worst "fake negro mannerisms" period. Beard-era stuff, anyway.
Yeah I know Robt Wyatt has a beard too but I'd consider him one of the elite of rock beardos who actually earned his whiskers.

duane zarakov, Thursday, 19 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I hate to be perverse (he lied), but I LIKE the fact that RW likes Weller: seems a v.succinct yet unmoralistic way of saying, "I have transcended mere trend and am serene in the land I landed up in..." His Stalinism also seems (given its timing) to be, like, siding with losers as a matter of principle.

mark s, Friday, 20 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Stalin, sure, but Paul Weller...

d.z., Friday, 20 April 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

two years pass...
"rock bottom" = greatest thing ever or, um, greatest thing ever?

see also "dondestan revisited"

amateurist (amateurist), Saturday, 5 July 2003 06:42 (sixteen years ago) link

not sure, btw, that he's a "stalinist" anymore as he'd left the cp some years ago.

amateurist (amateurist), Saturday, 5 July 2003 06:43 (sixteen years ago) link

i heard there was a new wyatt album due out soon, anyone know anything further?

shleep is a beautiful record and the first I discovered; both rock bottom and ruth hit my cd player regularly. I liked Old Rottenhat as well, which means I like pretty much everything I've heard by him, which I suppose means I'm a fan and therefore think: classic.

anthony kyle monday (akmonday), Saturday, 5 July 2003 07:39 (sixteen years ago) link

'rock bottom'. yes perhaps greatest album ever.

'old rottenhat' close behind. prefer the original mix of 'dondestan' over the polished 'revisited' one by ten miles.

jl, Saturday, 5 July 2003 07:50 (sixteen years ago) link

So has Ned heard more Robert Wyatt since this thread was started? I'd be happy to copy something for you, Ned, as I suspect you'd love Rock Bottom.

amateurist (amateurist), Saturday, 5 July 2003 16:09 (sixteen years ago) link

It was a stroke of genius to end this record with Ivor Cutler's voice, although every time I think of it, it calls to mind The Who's "A Quick One, While He's Away"....

amateurist (amateurist), Saturday, 5 July 2003 16:21 (sixteen years ago) link

robert wyatt is my all time favorite artist, ever.

JasonD (JasonD), Saturday, 5 July 2003 19:07 (sixteen years ago) link

What a great human being. His voice is like a warm, comforting friend. Rock Bottom and Ruth are wonderful beyond words. I hate Elvis Costello with a passion but I love Wyatt's "Shipbuilding". His animal rights advocacy is admirable. He introduced me to Victor Jara. I paid too much for the EPs box but I missed it the first time around and I had to have it. Some brilliant stuff on there, but the Shleep remixes suck. Actually, I was a bit let down by Shleep; for all the hype and praise it received, it was a tad disappointing. Still, it's great that he's still active and we can only hope for a new record.

The recent live Matching Mole discs on Cuneiform are pretty shit-hot too.

Mr. Diamond (diamond), Saturday, 5 July 2003 20:35 (sixteen years ago) link

victor jara introduced me to robert wyatt! (in a sense.)

i like everything he's done, even "a short break" and "the end of an ear" (which i listen to with some difficulty). his voice is indeed the unifying factor and it is so inviting, his wordless vocalizing in particular. apparently he can *sing* entire coltrane solos from memory.

i can't quite get into some of the matching mole stuff but "o caroline" is one of the greatest things he's done. manages to be self-effacing and utterly serious at once.

amateurist (amateurist), Sunday, 6 July 2003 03:06 (sixteen years ago) link

mr. diamond it is nice to see someone else liking jara. i grew up listening to him and other political singers like pablo milanes and theodor bikel and paul robeson. robert wyatt doesn't quite fit in that tradition as his political songs are generally more allusive than didactic (although this is true of many jara songs as well).

amateurist (amateurist), Sunday, 6 July 2003 03:07 (sixteen years ago) link

Well, I dunno, thinking about V. Jara sort of just makes me want to kill myself.

What a fucking wonderful country, right?

What a disgusting legacy. FUCK the United States of America.

Mr. Diamond (diamond), Sunday, 6 July 2003 03:14 (sixteen years ago) link

yes thinking about jara's end does make me despair for so many reasons. would that pinochet would end his life in a prison cell but what's done is done. bloody fucking awful.

jara's songs are lovely b/c they take the road not (often) taken w/r/t political songs, where a story about people living their daily lives, things like love and sex and children and school and so on, connect to politics in these suggestive but nonetheless clear ways. as wonderful as wyatt's reading of "te recuerdo amanda" is, jara's is heartbreaking. i shouldn't even bother to attempt to apply any superlatives to it.

amateurist (amateurist), Sunday, 6 July 2003 03:40 (sixteen years ago) link

haha the "United States" = democracy.

I'm like, at a loss for words whenever discourse centers on the ridiculousness of this place.

Anyway, yes Amateurist you are your normal smart, sensible self. Still, frankly, I can't dismiss people who have politics opposite to my own. Gosh, I'd like to think we all do.

Darnit, this world is fucked, but for Christ's sake some of us pine for the alternatives...

Mr. Diamond (diamond), Sunday, 6 July 2003 04:35 (sixteen years ago) link

actually, frankly, I'm drunk and not even sure what I'm talking about.

Wyatt rules.

Mr. Diamond (diamond), Sunday, 6 July 2003 04:37 (sixteen years ago) link

sorry who is jara?

this is a nice thread. there was a doc on robert wyatt abt a couple of months back on BBC4 and he came across as a wonderful person. I've heard some soft machine and i sort of struggle with it for some reason but I like his voice so i should check solo stuff.

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Sunday, 6 July 2003 08:06 (sixteen years ago) link

start with rock bottom julio. and yeah, ned, have you heard it yet?

gaz (gaz), Sunday, 6 July 2003 08:46 (sixteen years ago) link

julio, you'd really appreciate his first solo record 'the end of an ear'. it's pre-accident and is pretty out. mixes free jazz and his voice. unlike anything he's ever made (actually, unlike anything anyone's ever made).

and soft machine doesn't even compare to his solo stuff. it's slow, moody, post-prog political love songs. and his keyboard tones are so warm and thick.

JasonD (JasonD), Sunday, 6 July 2003 08:50 (sixteen years ago) link

diamond, how much did you get his ep box for? i picked it up sometime this year for 30$ off ebay. i already had most of the stuff - from either owning the singles and eps or from the mid eighties cd (which collects old rotten hat and a bunch of ep stuff). but the animal farm disc is killer. the shleep remixes do kinda blow.

i keep passing up this one single of his. it's him and a bunch of south african musicians. anyone know anything about it?

JasonD (JasonD), Sunday, 6 July 2003 08:53 (sixteen years ago) link

Julio: Victor Jara was a Chilean singer and songwriter, who often wrote lyrics telling intimate stories with a political cast (he also wrote some athems), and was a major part of the pan-American movement called "Nueva Cancion" ("new song") which drew a lot of musical inspiration from Latin American folk music but also contemporaneous American politicized folk music à la Bob Dylan.

He was closely identified with the Popular Unity movement of Salvador Allende. After Pinochet's coup which toppled Allende, Jara was arrested, tortured, and later killed (along with 1000s of other Chileans).

His stuff probably shouldn't be too hard to find in any Hispanic music store (I'm not sure where you're at, but there's a million such places in Chicago), and on eBay you can sometimes find the remastered CDs from his catalog that came out in Chile last year.

Anyway we're talking about him because Wyatt recorded one of his most famous (and beautiful) songs, "Te Recuerdo Amanda" ("I remember Amanada").

amateurist (amateurist), Sunday, 6 July 2003 16:22 (sixteen years ago) link

thanks for recommnedations and amt thanks for info on jara.

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Sunday, 6 July 2003 17:15 (sixteen years ago) link

Egads, looks like I turned into a drunken ranting fule last night. I think I became possessed by the spirit of Jello Biafra or something. Oh well. One of my cats died yesterday so I needed to put a good raging drunk on.

Anyway, Jason - yeah I believe I paid something like $30 or $35 for EPs as well. Too much, but as I say I had to have it (maybe it isn't too much, i dunno; I don't know what it went for new, but it seemed like a lot to me). It's just a really beautiful package, a nice thing to have on the shelf, you know? Yeah that Animals soundtrack is unsettling, and I've never even seen the film.

Mr. Diamond (diamond), Monday, 7 July 2003 03:30 (sixteen years ago) link

don't (see the film)--it's the most disturbing thing i've experienced. i had to avert my eyes much of the time.

amateurist (amateurist), Monday, 7 July 2003 03:32 (sixteen years ago) link

Yeah, Amateurist, I sort of really don't want to see it.

I think it would give me nightmares.

Mr. Diamond (diamond), Monday, 7 July 2003 04:16 (sixteen years ago) link

OH i love him, mostly classic (atleast the solostuff i´ve heard)
Rock Bottom and the At last i´m free / STRANGE FRUIT 7" is my favourite solo. And his best song is on the first Matching MOle record, it´s called O CAROLINE it´s on my top ten ever list.

Also he was on one of the best singles ever, Vivien Goldmans Launderette / private armies record

Jens (brighter), Monday, 7 July 2003 07:02 (sixteen years ago) link

he's also on some raincoats records!

amateurist (amateurist), Monday, 7 July 2003 13:00 (sixteen years ago) link

i believe robert wyatt is CLASSIC without any argument. he is like a patron saint to me in some way.
what single with south african musicians? that's probably people from chris mcgregor's brotherhood of breath, whom wyatt was tight with. mongezi feza plays trumpet on "ruth" and the first brotherhood of breath record kicks it in an amazing way.
has anyone seen the film about robert wyatt? recommended was selling an NTSC copy not too long ago - is it worth splurging for?
wyatt rules so much. and he turns up in the damndest places (like on michael mantler's "The hapless child," where he sings the edward gorey-penned lyrics.

j fail (cenotaph), Monday, 7 July 2003 18:25 (sixteen years ago) link

The communism I don't mind. It was the Stalinism I could never figure out. Muslimgauze's political stance in comparison seemed calm and sweetly reasoned.

Since when was Robert Wyatt ever a "Stalinist"? What, because he sang "Stalin Wasn't Stallin'"? Do some research before accusing people of being Stalinists.

Dadaismus (Dada), Wednesday, 9 July 2003 13:57 (sixteen years ago) link

Two years down the line and there's this! Okay, share the details then -- I have always understood that Wyatt had a belief in some interpretation of hardcore communism along Stalinist lines, so what's the real story?

Ned Raggett (Ned), Wednesday, 9 July 2003 14:08 (sixteen years ago) link

hardcore communism along Stalinist lines

Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, what exactly does that mean? Wyatt was a member of the British Communist Party, he was a Marxist, he was not a Stalinist.

Dadaismus (Dada), Wednesday, 9 July 2003 14:12 (sixteen years ago) link

I dunno. A number of people, including Ted Grant, split from the British CP in the fifties over Hungary and other issues. Not sure if the CP ever officially repudiated Stalin a la Krushchev.

amateurist (amateurist), Wednesday, 9 July 2003 14:17 (sixteen years ago) link

there's an interview somewhere where green gartside says he and wyatt grew apart in the mid-80s because wyatt was "becoming more stalinist" (GG = grew up in the Young Communist League, so presumably knows what *he* means by the term — ie is using it technically and precisely, rather than just a vague or dismissive synonym for "marxist" or "communist")

mark s (mark s), Wednesday, 9 July 2003 14:30 (sixteen years ago) link

There was also an NME interview I remember with Steven Wells in which Wells says something like "Well, although we argue, he being a Stalinist and I being a Trotskyite etc., he's basically a good sort". Don't know how accurately Swells was characterising his politics, but anyway.

N. (nickdastoor), Wednesday, 9 July 2003 14:40 (sixteen years ago) link

There are Gong threads.

nickn, Tuesday, 22 May 2018 00:23 (two years ago) link

Another Mantler:

words by
Samuel Beckett
Ernst Meister
Philippe Soupault

Jack Bruce (voice)
Marianne Faithfull (voice)
Robert Wyatt (voice)

Michael Mantler (trumpet)
Rick Fenn (guitar)

The Danish Radio Concert Orchestra
conducted by Peder Kragerup

recorded May through December 1987
Copenhagen, London, Boston,
Willow, NY

27 songs in 34 minutes: no sense of fragmentation, maybe in because I'm not following the words very closely, but on his site Mantler says they were chosen to fit together in several ways, and sonically they ripple back and forth (while somehow pushing on), between three languages and at least five voices, if you count the trumpet and guitar (singing behind/around the humans, never in the way), sixth is the orchestra far as I'm concerned, though it's never breathing too heavy.

Thread police may get me, because humans are heard pretty much in the order of their billing, I think, though some of these songs are just a few seconds long, and all three sound more flexible than expected.

But, for instance, "A L'Abattoir" will def make my personal travelling mix of RW, ditto "Prisonniers," which is either Wyatt and Bruce or Wyatt and Faithfull, or (more likely) Wyatt and Wyatt in different registers, maybe singing to each other through the wall (not too loud).

Pretty sure I would have liked all of this on first listen with no idea who did it.

dow, Tuesday, 22 May 2018 04:31 (two years ago) link

"ILM Threads that need a NO CAUSE FOR ALARM warning when they are revived"

mahb, Tuesday, 22 May 2018 08:33 (two years ago) link

The Hapless Child is pretty awesome and sui generis though i have kind of sited it in my head next to Art Bears

cheese is the teacher, ham is the preacher (Jon not Jon), Tuesday, 22 May 2018 14:59 (two years ago) link

xp yes, seriously

most of my love for Hapless Child is cuz of Gorey, it's a bit too fussy and prog for me but it's a very cool record regardless and essential for even semi-completists

sleeve, Tuesday, 22 May 2018 15:10 (two years ago) link

"ILM Threads that need a NO CAUSE FOR ALARM warning when they are revived"

― mahb, Tuesday, 22 May 2018 08:33 (six hours ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Arr, but then again, I think our Rob would go straight to a dedicated RWRIP thread if there ever was one.

Mark G, Tuesday, 22 May 2018 15:27 (two years ago) link

Really feeling The Hapless Child. Carla is a superstar on this.

kurt schwitterz, Tuesday, 22 May 2018 16:33 (two years ago) link

Mantler's The School of Understanding (recorded in 1996) mainly features Wyatt on "Understanding," where he's the Guest Observer, riding into a language school on what might be a baby elephant or lofty llama, but is listed as Don Preston's syndrums, which I'd thought only made little pooty sounds, so even more education. Too ba
Too bad Wyatt and the syndrums only come in once, but the whole thing's pretty listenable; I especially like when other voices address the refugee student. Woman: "You are a victim, you have suffered so much---you must go." A guy: "What you have suffered is inconceivable." Meanwhile, Alien Girl remembers: "Don't think about it, go to's a long walk through the war, bits and pieces." (Mantler wrote all the words for once, so far turning out at least as well as settings for his literary heroes.)

Digital drums appear once on Mantler's 2000 settings of Paul Auster's words,Hide and Seek (though tuned percussion brings constant and welcome companionship to co-stars RW and Susi Hyldgaard, compatible with Wyatt's own turns on xpost Silence---come to think of it, Preston's syndrums fit the feel of Wyatt's real kit of yore. This anomalous sound may be what's alarming the couple---he: "Have you, no-oh-ticed---?" she: "Yes! Yes! Yes!" "Have you any ideas?" "Yes, I'm going to scream." "When are you going to do it?" "Right Now!"
That's when the whole thing bumps up the word interest, which had previously been mostly Deep Thought mulch for granular melody and rhythm, vocal and instrumental. The final stretch develops circular and spiraling conversations (briefly) from repeated phrases---he: "I don't denyyy..." she: "What?" "Anything." "That's very clever of you." "I'm glad we agree." together/overlapping "I'm glad you're glad." Ho-ho well it sounds good, and yeah several more keepers for the deep fan mix.

dow, Wednesday, 23 May 2018 19:03 (two years ago) link

ten months pass...

So this popped up as a new release today.

sctttnnnt (pgwp), Saturday, 23 March 2019 01:28 (one year ago) link

three months pass...

Audience Recording of the North Sea Radio Orchestra show with John Greaves and Annie Barbazza and Fred Frith as special guests At Cafe Oto 27 June 2019, presenting the Dark Companion album FOLLY BOLOLEY - Songs from Robert Wyatt's Rock Bottom. (plus other songs)

nickn, Friday, 5 July 2019 22:10 (ten months ago) link

Oh well, search for Folly Bololey At Cafe Oto 27 June 2019

nickn, Friday, 5 July 2019 22:11 (ten months ago) link

i'm not usually into these kinda things but this is really good

diamonddave85​​ (diamonddave85), Monday, 8 July 2019 19:53 (ten months ago) link

live recording is great too. thanks for sharing

diamonddave85​​ (diamonddave85), Monday, 8 July 2019 19:53 (ten months ago) link

there is some slanderous bullshit at the beginning of this thread

haha yes

sleeve, Monday, 8 July 2019 20:57 (ten months ago) link

"I've heard very little of Wyatt's music thus far, but....................."

MaresNest, Tuesday, 9 July 2019 09:46 (ten months ago) link

nine months pass...

This is NOT a Covid-19 Revive. He's fine, far as I know (no news is good enough news, esp. these days).

Just came here to say that I have finally listened to 2013 Cuneiform release '68.
Track list and personnel from

All tracks are written by Robert Wyatt, except where noted.

No. Title Length
1. "Chelsa" (Kevin Ayers, Wyatt) 5:00
2. "Rivmic Melodies" 18:19
3. "Slow Walkin' Talk" (Brian Hopper) 3:02
4. "Moon in June" 20:36
Robert Wyatt – vocals, piano, electric piano, Hammond organ, bass guitar, drums, percussion
Jimi Hendrix – bass guitar (track 3)
Hugh Hopper – bass guitar (track 4)
Mike Ratledge – Lowrey organ (track 4)

excerpts, incl. useful background breakdown from

"The missing links in my life's work, no less!" – Robert Wyatt

"Cuneiform has delivered a Holy Grail with Robert Wyatt's '68 ... The sound on '68 is excellent; it was painstakingly cleaned up and remastered from original sources, making this a must for any Wyatt, Soft Machine, or prog head. The booklet also contains a lengthy interview with Wyatt by Aymeric Leroy with comments from Hopper. All killer, no filler." – Thom Jurek/All Music Guide

,,,,In September, 1968, the Soft Machine had just finished their second, exhaustive tour of the USA supporting the Jimi Hendrix Experience. At the conclusion of the tour, vocalist/drummer/multi-instrumentalist Robert stayed, working on recordings in Hollywood and New York City. Upon Robert's return to England to re-start the Soft Machine in December, 1968, these documents lay forgotten. Two of them were eventually found and issued, but half of these recordings were unreleased and thought lost forever...

Now, for the first time, all four of the recordings Robert made in '68 are collected together and released, all carefully worked on and presented in the best possible sound quality – and the recorded sound here is surprisingly excellent overall!

This release is fully authorized by Robert and the liners include an in-depth interview with Robert about his recollections of this period, with insights into his songwriting process, recording procedures and previously untold anecdotes of this period of his work and life.

There are four tracks. Two of the demos are shorter songs. Of these, one of them was a track Robert used to play with the Wilde Flowers, Brian Hopper's Slow Walkin' Talk, while the other features music that would later be re-worked by Robert and appear on the 1st album by Matching Mole!

The bulk of the material - the two long suites - were later re-recorded by the Soft Machine; Rivmic Melodies later became the basis of side one on Volume II (1969) and Moon In June showed up as Robert's showcase on Third (1970). The two side-long epics are particularly worth noting how they present, even in this very early stage of his career, Wyatt's seamless integration of song fragments and instrumental passages within a unified whole, his stream-of-consciousness, often self-referential lyrics interspersed with witty asides (soon to become a defining characteristic of the 'Canterbury scene'), matched by Wyatt's equally idiosyncratic singing.
These tracks serve as a template for the post-psychedelic Soft Machine's career as founders of European jazz/rock and the entire release is a precursor to Robert's post-band, solo career...

dow, Wednesday, 6 May 2020 20:11 (three weeks ago) link

... oh fuck, don't do that to me, I thought we'd lost another one!

Angry Question Time Man's Flute Club Band (Tom D.), Wednesday, 6 May 2020 20:18 (three weeks ago) link


calzino, Wednesday, 6 May 2020 20:21 (three weeks ago) link

I know! It's unavoidable, but I had to revive, sorry!
The whole album is streamable on that bandcamp page.
I haven't yet done any comparative listening, but Jimi sounds great, ditto guest Softs, and this pulled all of them and me right along through recombinant artpoprock mosaic momentum, breadcrumbs of sound and vision and life lived jumping out often enough: "She's learning to hate, but it's already too late, for meeee," she's pulling him along too.
(Isn't there some guitar in this "Moon In June," or is that something from the keys?)

dow, Wednesday, 6 May 2020 20:22 (three weeks ago) link

lol same fear here

thanks for the writeup, that one's on my list to get but it's a long list.

sleeve, Wednesday, 6 May 2020 20:26 (three weeks ago) link

Now for all the streamable tracks from Cuneiform's live Matching Mole and Wyatt-era Soft Machine finds on bandcamp. I may be some tyme.

dow, Wednesday, 6 May 2020 20:36 (three weeks ago) link

starting with live 1967 Soft Machine set:
Sample tracks are satisfying and tantalizing, in equal measure. Start with subset of mellow urgency, incl. wages of pleasure: boy sends the invite, but doesn't get the memo: "She pulled out a gun, screaming 'You're Dreaming," but wouldn't it be nice---closer to Velvets than Floyd w such lyrics, Ayers' rhythm guitar & bass, the subtle, prismatic pressure of Ratledge's sunshine sustain---RW mainly offering otminimal harmonies and drums---until he rakes his tonsils across the top of "Hope For Happiness," raw as Ayers' guitar was on "Bossa Nova Express," and now Ratledge leads the splay though free postboogie, differently-morphous: not dated atall, but, at 13:19, maybe a little too much of a good thing, at least for my more Wyattcentric purposes---oh but then "You Really Got Me"---I mean, "We Did It Again"---lopes and crackles right along for 5:48, perfect.

dow, Wednesday, 6 May 2020 22:07 (three weeks ago) link

Who is this Otis Wheeler at the start of the thread with his wrong & badly expressed opinions? It's probably a good thing I wasn't on ILX in 2001 as I just know I would have been furious with various posters.

Wuhan!! Got You All in Check (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Wednesday, 6 May 2020 22:28 (three weeks ago) link

old ILM was wrong about nearly everything, I blame the UK Livejournal crew mostly

sleeve, Wednesday, 6 May 2020 22:30 (three weeks ago) link

Phew! Total panic there for a moment.

stirmonster, Wednesday, 6 May 2020 22:38 (three weeks ago) link

I knew that was gonna happen, so sorry!
xxxpost, speaking of crackling, just now I thought a tree was starting to fall across the driveway---windy as hell out there today---but then it sounded like Wyatt doing something with sticks---also right up by my ears (I'm wearing 'phones): just some of the fun with stereo on "Spaced One," from a bunch of manipulated instrumentals used for a multi-media show:
...recorded in early/mid 1969 by the "classic" Soft Machine trio line-up of Hugh Hopper [bass], Mike Ratledge [electric piano/organ] and Robert Wyatt [drums]..These recordings feature the band at their most radical, and while they would never again use the studio in such an extreme fashion, the work done here definitely influenced later works such as Third and Hugh's 1984.
That opener is by far the longest, and other than little sticks and pokes, mostly organ drone with less bass bobbing. "Spaced Two" starts like a para-proto-Can-Velvets groove: just a little keyboard ripple with kickdrum and closed high-hat maybe, oh it's a loop, and here's another, 'bout to drip from the ceiling, but layers quickly accrue, with maybe realtime variants, or more illusions (Eno says the mind seeks out variety in sameness), then, almost 5 minutes in, several things go backwards, some of them creating an anxious, courteous,persistent pitch, an old butler, drumstick slicing way behind him---nice, one for the Beatles fans.
(Spaced Three: carousel melting backwards in Sgt. Pepper Park, but don't hear Wyatt so fuck it--except points for being shortest track.)
Spaced Six: Awright! Keys, bass, full drum kit wheeling around, greeted by glitch riffs---RW providing solos/bursts as accompaniment to/as negative space and vice versa (accompaniment to/as himself? Might as well). Chopping blocks and going Latin for a second, tapes abused and done. This is the RWrelevant keeper for relatively rational cherrypicking, but I might possibly buy the whole thing (DAMMIT)

dow, Wednesday, 6 May 2020 23:10 (three weeks ago) link

some soft machine ephemera using the spaced material: beyond image from the people responsible for their light show at that time

no lime tangier, Thursday, 7 May 2020 04:54 (three weeks ago) link

This was mentioned briefly on last year's rolling jazz thread and it's brilliant; best thing I heard in 2019: Hütte & Guests Play the Music of Robert Wyatt

fetter, Thursday, 7 May 2020 06:50 (three weeks ago) link

Thanks! Totally missed that on RJ 2019.
Soft Machine's Backwards starts with the quartet live in May 1970: 18 minutes, 39 seconds, none wasted, jumps right into 7:38 "Moon in June," jumps right into septet "Facelift," from Nov. '69: 8:36, which, with the following (non-freebie-sample)4:05 "Hibou Anemone and Bear," is, along with 20 minutes on the BBC, all the septet recordings, or so the notes here say. All of this is sharp, interlocking, flexible parts, with Wyatt rattling and chopping right through the middle, always responsively. Also 'preciate Hopper's fuzz bass and guitar appeal of Ratledge's keys at times.
Ends with Wyatt's xpost '68 "Moon In June" demo + '69 splice.

dow, Friday, 8 May 2020 18:15 (three weeks ago) link

[Noisette is the third in our Soft Machine series, recorded January 4th, 1970 at the same concert as "Facelift" on Third, by the short-lived quintet formation of the group: Elton Dean & Lyn Dobson-reeds, Hugh Hopper-bass, Mike Ratledge-keyboards & Robert Wyatt-drums & vocals. Noisette features the rest of the concert, & showcases a band in transition from their earlier psychedelic/ progressive sound towards the jazz rock sound of Third & Fourth. It features the quintet performing versions of material from their 1st two albums as well as material not available on their studio albums. Mastered directly off of the 30 year old 15ips master tapes, this release boasts superb live sound for the time period.

Well there's some haze, or gauze, but the instruments quickly push through and find enough room for definition. Ratledge's intro is pretty and brief, then he and Wyatt pitch right in, bass is amiably full, reeds squawk and peck at the edges of other sounds, not too much, just keeping 'em on their toes--was thinking reeds were getting thinner than nec., then Hopper belches a bit of fuzz, returning the "look alive!" favor. Later a bit of flute, later still saxes scurry up the Ratledge lattice, suggesting a parody of guitar sounds sometimes--title track is 37 seconds, not one wasted, whole thing seeming like a suite, then finale--finally, one with Robert vocals! It has all these little sections, players bursting through the walls, just as the whole set has these little quick jumps at the end of each song. Sections are what some people haaate about prog, but these are entertaining enough to justify their existence, incl. coexistence.
Only thing: Even though this still sounds sharp, fresh, it's most noteworthy for those qualities, rather than heights and depths of the jazzing--the rocking rocks on, w/o getting corny, smartly melding to the jazz--=and I do miss the voice sometimes on pre-finale workouts, despite the (never-abused) roominess for his drumming, and will once again be glad for him to move on to greener pastures, options-wise. But before that, will continue with these fun Soft Machine sample tracks. This page has 6 out of album's 10:

dow, Monday, 11 May 2020 21:00 (two weeks ago) link

Grides presents the most famous version of the band (Elton Dean, Hugh Hopper, Mike Ratledge, Robert Wyatt) recorded live at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam on October 25, 1970, in a high-quality, previously unreleased recording, just a few months after the release of Third and at the peak of their popularity. It showcases them in transition between releases, with the band performing 3 of the four works from Third, as well as some of the earliest recordings of material from the upcomming Fourth, including some very different arrangements to what would eventually end up on that release. Especially in contrast to Noisette, the instruments jump right out, and stay comfortably close to my ears on headphones. finally, I can really hear what Hopper's doing all through the set"some steady twists and turns, like bass balloon sculpture---but he's not trying to be Jaco or Stanley--also, just the right, concentrated doses of fuzz, other distortion--ditto Ratledge, who plays mostly mid- and lower-range, full, warm, but yowly when excited; Wyatt's more spare than previous sets in this series, mainly punctuating, cueing, also stirring and chopping noodles when nec. (not that often). Dean's bundling of acrid shards provides effective contrast with meatitudes of others, but I don't miss him when he's not playing.
Sometimes this seems more relaxed than prev. shows in the series, and "Esther's Nose Job" goes on a little too long, though good ending, and we get a reprise of my favorite tune here, if you can call it that, the slightly spooky "Slightly All The Time," this time with a burst of "Noisette."
Bandcamp page lets us hear about half the tracks; I'll prob buy it and do some cherrypicking, as with most of these sets.

dow, Tuesday, 12 May 2020 17:16 (two weeks ago) link

CD edition of Grides incl. DVD of 3.23.71 quartet set at Radio Bremen, which can also be had as a sep. (audio-only) digital album, for 5 bucks. Good idea: it's a 20:17 fistful of well-recorded balloon farm heat and cool networking, like the earlier Grides show, but fitting my attention span better. (Dean even melds with the others, without losing his skronk.) Most exciting passage: Wyatt's voice does something I've never heard before, like layers of duck or geese quavering in strict tempo---rows at a shooting gallery, with a distracting effect---?
Whole thing's here, apparently:
- Neo-Caliban Grides

- Out-Bloody-Rageous

- Robert Wyatt's Vocal Improvisation

- Eamonn Andrews

- All White

dow, Tuesday, 12 May 2020 17:57 (two weeks ago) link

(And can even hear Wyatt's kick-drum[?] and toms here, sometimes.)

dow, Tuesday, 12 May 2020 17:59 (two weeks ago) link

The previously unreleased show captured on Virtually, recorded March 23, 1971, presents the classic quartet Softs during their final European tour & just 4 months before their dissolution...versions of all the tracks from Fourth, most of Third and much more...special note must be made of Robert's drumming, as he plays with more gusto on this show than most from this period. Right at the beginning, as they jump into "Teeth," his interplay with the keys is right up front: dual lead lines, even though (except for the bass, which is always played and recorded splendidly here), the overall sound quality of this track isn't quite up to the rest---though it sure is on the next one, the title song, and most of the rest.
But the sound is also too good to listen around Dean as much as I'd like; he and the prev. reliable Ratledge and too many tracks get tiresome, despite the rhythm section's best efforts, and abrupt cut-offs (obvious edits, not realtime-sounding jumps, like on some previous sets in this series).
Of these six sample tracks, out of ten on the album, think I'll prob just get "Virtually"---should listen to the whole thing somewhere else maybe, but suspect I'm getting tired of this whole approach/that it was time for RW to move on. I'm ready for Cuneiform's live Matching Mole sets.

dow, Wednesday, 13 May 2020 20:51 (two weeks ago) link

there's an FB group for him and a few neighbors and friends of his post there regularly. someone walked by his house yesterday and waved to him, he was on the porch.

akm, Thursday, 14 May 2020 03:34 (two weeks ago) link

He’s still doing stuff albeit officially retired. He curated an hour of music for a new online Palestinian radio station a few days ago.

Jeff W, Thursday, 14 May 2020 08:14 (two weeks ago) link

He and Alfie also have a book coming out in September - lyrics and drawings I think

Jeff W, Thursday, 14 May 2020 08:15 (two weeks ago) link

Actually a Hopper song, but this thread is more active so I'll put it here. Weyes Blood did a nice cover of "A Certain Kind" a few years ago.

nickn, Thursday, 14 May 2020 23:16 (two weeks ago) link

Oh Well, it's searchable.

nickn, Thursday, 14 May 2020 23:17 (two weeks ago) link

Posting vids works better for me via Firefox, not the private window, just the basiic. Anyway, found it from your link, sounds good, thanks! Soft Machine Vol One version on same page. Thanks also to akim and Jeff W for updates, sure wish I could walk by his house and wave, oh well will check the book. I need to check more Hopper; I mainly know him from Wilde Flowers, Soft Machine, and the Material cover of "Memories." Where should I start with his other bands? Also, is there a book that covers the Canterbury crew from early to fairly recent years?

dow, Friday, 15 May 2020 04:56 (two weeks ago) link

When I was compiling early Canterbury stuff, this was the main source for the really early years, like pre-65.,_Vol._1%E2%80%934

It's an odd grab-bag of stuff, some of it not very good at all, still worth a listen though.

Wuhan!! Got You All in Check (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Friday, 15 May 2020 06:43 (two weeks ago) link

The Hopper and Elton Dean albums are good. I also like the one he did with Caveman Shoestore, calling themselves Caveman Hughscore.

nickn, Sunday, 17 May 2020 18:05 (one week ago) link

man I tried again with that one recently after owning it for many years, and altho there are some real high points I just cannot hang with the main Caveman guy's stream-of-consciousness lyrics

sleeve, Sunday, 17 May 2020 18:16 (one week ago) link

Yeah, it's an acquired taste. I appreciate the music over the lyrics. As a progger from way back I've learned to tune out silly lyrics.

nickn, Sunday, 17 May 2020 18:25 (one week ago) link

Smoke Signals compiles all previously unreleased performances - selected & sequenced by Robert Wyatt biographer Mike King - from the band's most intense gigging period. The set list is mostly drawn from Little Red Record, but the way the band performed the pieces live is quite different from the heavily overdubbed versions found on the studio disc.
Yeah, Matching Mole is Jack B. Nimble here--gotta be, or Wyatt might roll right over the others. No busywork in the v. compatible bandcamp sample tracks though: put of 10, we get "Smoke Rings" (double bass with a pickup, and sometimes a bow??), "Brandy as in Benjii" (after Benjii the dog movie star?), "March Ides II," (my fave), and "Smoke Signal," which has good thick fuzzy drones--guitar, bass, both?---and liquid electric piano floating in a glass---thee good jazz rock, or jazzy rock, before fusion got so complicated. Refreshing! Guess I did binge on Soft Machine. No vocals in this foursome, alas.

dow, Wednesday, 20 May 2020 01:34 (one week ago) link

Wii have to try Canterburied Sounds, thanks!

dow, Wednesday, 20 May 2020 01:39 (one week ago) link

personally for me his peak period is the stuff he put out in the late '70s - "hopper tunity box", "monster band", and "two rainbows daily" with alan gowen. "two rainbows daily" in particular is just spectacular, a really underheard gem.

for later stuff i very much enjoy the "soft mountain" release, a record with hopper and elton dean that's very much in the spirit of the fourth soft machine record, with hoppy kamiyama and tatsuya yoshida on keys and drums.

i wasn't at all a fan of "1984", which i remember as just being these strange tape loops without much in the way of melody. i might like it more today if i gave it another listen.

Kate (rushomancy), Wednesday, 20 May 2020 01:49 (one week ago) link

I cannot imagine Tatsuya Yoshida playing anything like Soft Machine 4

frogbs, Wednesday, 20 May 2020 01:51 (one week ago) link

sorry, fifth - there's definitely more phil howard than robert wyatt in his playing!

Kate (rushomancy), Wednesday, 20 May 2020 02:20 (one week ago) link

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