Robert Wyatt’s influence far exceeds the speed at which he composes. Over four decades, beginning with his tenure with psychedelic cohorts The Soft Machine, the British songwriter has released albums at an extremely modest pace, including his most recent, Comicopera. In the meantime, he has inspired legions of British musicians, including hipsters Hot Chip and Elvis Costello.
Comicopera serves as a peephole into Wyatt’s mind, the view is blinding, a look into a cavernous world where talent and class glimmers like fractals of light reflecting off of dripping stalactites. The album’s 16 tracks play out across three movements – addressing a plea for patience (Act I), a brighter future (Act II), and the bombing (Act III) – including a final run where English is silenced because of war, the last line spoken being "you’ve planted all your everlasting hatred in my heart" before Wyatt completes the album in Spanish and Italian tongues. The backing is ample, featuring guest appearances by Brian Eno and Paul Weller.
But it is tracks like “Just As You Are” which strike the fairest posture of excellence; Monica Vasconcelos’s exotic phrasing propels the easy swells of piano and trumpet, enhanced by the emergence of Wyatt’s steadfast interjections and impassioned ease over the breezy jazz interlude.
Robert Wyatt’s finesse and innovative ear are fully vilified on Comicopera, its structure classic, its content fresh, its soul ebullient.
Comicopera is out now on Domino.