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Robert Wyatt – Shleep (1997)

July 29, 2019

Untitled presentation (27)

July Series: Why I’m (still) a “total man of the ’90s”

1. I miss what I never had
2. Efficiency + Effectiveness
3. I’m hooked early & often

4. Female Vocals + Nice/Slow Groove
5. Bands beget Bands
6. Perfectly executed business plans
7. Far (enough) Out

[Album 653/1001]

Marty McFly: Far Out! 
Seamus McFly: Now what was the meaning of that?
– From the 1990 film, Back to the Future III, Frisbee scene

I’m not sure if I’ll ever fully grasp the meaning of Robert Wyatt’s music.

It’s, well, “far out.”

But it’s also “far out” in the Marty McFly/totally awesome sense.

As an album, Shleep is not so challenging that it’s completely inaccessible, yet not so effortless that it becomes a sleep aid.

It’s just out there enough; if you think of the Earth’s atmosphere layers, it’s likely somewhere in the stratosphere.


Untitled presentation (29)

“Please excuse the crudity of this model.
I didn’t have time to build it to scale or to paint it.”


A tune like Free Will and Testament is a great example.

It’s not dissimilar to Blur’s Strange News from Another Star, also from 1997.

Until that point in their career, Blur had written songs primarily designed for fans living within the range of 0-12 km above sea level.

Though with their 1997 self-titled record, Damon Albarn & co. started to venture into some pretty ‘out there’ territory.

And as it is my favourite Blur album, it appears I quite like it when otherwise Earthly artists venture out into the stratosphere.

.220px-Shleepalbumcover (1)

With Shleep, Robert Wyatt finds himself in a similar stratum.

The difference?

From what I gather, Shleep may be the most accessible recording in Robert Wyatt’s catalogue.

So for him, Shleep represents a return to atmospheric levels accessible to more humans!

There are moments that are likely even closer to sea level (the Blondie-meets-Scissor Sisters Heaps of Sheeps) & others that drift back toward the outer boundary of the Thermosphere (the instrumental portions of The Duchess & Was a Friend).

But as an overall ‘out there-ness’ album average, Shleep ends up residing somewhere in the stratosphere.

Just far enough out there.

And as I quite liked this Robert Wyatt album, it appears I quite like it when otherwise thermospheric artists take a trip back into the stratosphere.


Verbalize the Positive

1997, what a year for music!

From → 1990s

  1. It’s interesting to read your reviews from a man from the 90s as yourself!
    For you, 1997 was a great year in music!
    For me, 1987 that would be my great year in music. I was 20 that year! Then again 1984 was a strong music year for me. Ah, crap the whole 80s decade was solid for me! Who am I trying to fool!

    • ’87 was a great year in my books too – Appetite for Destruction, Gretzky to Lemieux in the Canada Cup, what’s not to like!

      • You are correct Sir!
        What a goal that was! Wowzers!
        87 also spawned one of my all-time fav street rock albums and that would Electric by The Cult!
        Course Hysteria with all of Side A being released as singles as well.
        Never see that again!

      • I think ’87 was also the year my first favourite baseball player (George Bell) won the AL MVP too!

      • I think your right! Bell/Barfield/Moseby was something​ else in that outfield eh Geoff!

      • Throw in Tony Fernandez at shortstop & Jimmy Key on the mound, what a team!

      • Yeah that was quite the team. I still can remember that collapse when they were like 6 games up on the Tgers with about 10 days left and blew it..

      • I have a memory of Jimmy Key pitching a gem of a final game (maybe 3 hits or so) but they still lost the pivotal game 1-0!

      • That was brutal. We couldn’t believe it! Then again I have always been a Yanks fan! haha
        Don’t hate me, ​Geoff!

      • Not to worry Deke – I used to have a Yanks hat myself!

  2. Have you heard about Wyatting? When people purposely put difficult music on at a pub jukebox. It’s named after Robert Wyatt.

    • I learned about that this year – I gather the family doesn’t approve. And I find his stuff doesn’t work as background music, it’s too interesting!

  3. These BTTF references are heavy.

  4. Enjoyed reading your foray into the stratosphere, Geoff. I’ve been with Mr Wyatt his Soft Machine days; a unique and fascinating musician. And yes, I’d be one of those who would recommend this as an entry point. Delighted to hear it achieved lift off!

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