Saturday, December 29, 2007
Robert Wyatt is unique. The rack-jobbers can't seem to find a cubbyhole for his experimental avant-music, which puts him at a great disadvantage -- at least commercially -- in this age of Balkanized musical tastes, where so-called "indie music" is often just a marketing tool and truly avant-garde music is off the map and hard to discover. If popular musical tastes are the mainstream, and so-called "alternative" music is a major branch of the river, Wyatt isn't even near the water. He's standing far off in a morning field, playing a silver horn as the sun comes up. To a horse.
Wyatt is the former drummer and singer for Soft Machine, a mid-sixties British art-rock group from the psychedelic Canterbury scene. Soft Machine predates other excessive art-rock Brits like Tull and King Crimson, and preferred jazzy, experimental sounds to the overwrought theatrics that would come with the later prog acts. Wyatt has been recording ever since those halcyon days, writing his own stuff and doing some surprising covers like "I'm a Believer" by the Monkees -- which BBC wouldn't let him perform on television while sitting in a wheelchair (Wyatt has been paralysed from the waist down since an accident in 1973). His music is fragile and complex, with elements of pop and jazz swirling around a frail voice like mist around a bare winter tree. His music is not for everyone. Most people (like those surveyed by Komar and Melamid -- see below) probably won't like it, but give it a chance and you will discover something new.
"Just as You Are," from Robert Wyatt's new album, "Comicopera"