March 1219, 1998
Robert Wyatt plays quietly in his field. His soft, uneasily tuneful voice, alongside an ambient jazzy soundscape resonates dignity. But just because he uses a silencer doesn't mean he's not a sniper.
Wyatt, like John Cale, Kevin Ayers and Scott Walker, is one of England's last great eccentrics. Though he grew up amidst the Floyds and ELPs as a Soft Machine member (later hanging with the Roxy Music-likes of Brian Eno and Phil Manzanera who aid him here), he never took to their gigantic proportions. His words (and that of occasional writing partner/wife/poet Alfie Benge), though sensuously serene, aren't often comforting. From magic reality and silliness ("The Duchess, " a goofy description of marital bliss) to the delicacy of describing birds, Wyatt's every moment is a mix of the poetically disturbing and the daffy. The Eno-drenched opener "Heaps of Sheep" assails insomnia with a jangly guitar and African chorus. Evan Parker's Coltrane-like soprano sax and Chikako Sato's pensive violin movements make slow chamber moments like "Maryan" dancey and dreamy. The finest moment within is "Blues In Bob Minor," a giddy, near-beat-poetic take on Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" that features guitarist Paul Weller in a loud, rambling mood.
Throughout spring and summer Thirsty Ear will rerelease a half-dozen of Wyatt's works from the '70s on. From the avant-rocking Rock Bottom to the quietly Communist Nothing Can Stop Us each is a hyper-sensitive adventure.