Radio Experiment Rome
February 1981

Robert Wyatt


DOWNTOWN MUSIC GALLERY - Newsletter - July 31st, 2009

Radio Experiment Rome, February 1981 (Rai Trade 0014;

Bruce Lee Gallanter


Previously unreleased material made by Robert Wyatt (Soft Machine) in the studio for an Italian radio program in 1981. Wyatt himself described the experience as "a chance to expand ideas to bring to life outside the music business, which is just one big fashion industry..normally you have to obtain money for studio time and aim at a particular recording for a particular product. So after three days of testing, the eight-track started officially rolling - piano, vocals, hi-hat, a jaw harp - laying down track after track, until the Roman radio guys ended up with 45 minutes of music, including pieces like "Born Again Cretin" (a song about Nelson Mandela), "The Opium War", with garbled 'radio-like' vocals and "Heathens Have No Souls", featuring a jaw harp.
"This is an extraordinary and completely unique work from our main inspiration and reluctant hero, Robert Wyatt. Giving Mr. Wyatt a week's worth of experimentation in a radio in Rome was a wonderful idea and the results are fascinating and bizarre. "Opium War" begins our journey with a transmission from another planet. Wyatt's distinctive voice speak/sings his special words about the British invasion of China. Words sped up, slowed down and mutated in layers with jew's harp, skeletal percussion and enchanting minimal keyboards. Mr. Wyatt has always used his voice(s) and weaved them in selective layers to create a variety of characters. This is truly the way a radio studio can be used for creative explorations and Wyatt does his best to take us on a personal journey. Since Mr. Wyatt was given time to prepare in the studio, he is able to craft exquisite and mesmerizing voices, melodies and backing rhythms. There is something immensely charming about the way Wyatt has created these silly/serious songs, sometimes on-the-spot. I dig the way "L'Albero Degli Zoccoli" sounds as if it flowing backwards for the first half and it turns into a delightful wordless sort of ballad. On "Holy War", Wyatt warbles "Anarchy in the UK" & "Onwards Christian Soldiers" while swirling layers of other vocal lines, each one adding another mystery to be revealed through time and consideration. In many ways this disc is a long lost treasure that bridges the gap between the seventies ('Rockbottom' & 'Ruth...') and the eighties period of Robert Wyatt's sparse recording career. Charlie Parker's theme song, "Billie's Bounce" gets a short yet infectious reading and "Born Again Cretin" gets a tantalizing, thoughtful version. For us Canterbury fans, this is like manna from above, that is if you do believe in miracles, this is one to savor."

REVUE & CORRIGÉE - Décembre 2009 - #82

Radio Experiment Rome, February 1981
Rai Trade RTPJ 0014 - Dist. Orkhêstra



Pendant trois journées en février 1981, Robert WYATT expérimenta et enregistra dans les studios de la radio italienne, répondant à la demande de Pasquale Santoli. Le résultat, un disque de 45 minutes inédit à ce jour (la bande fut diffusée à l'époque sur les ondes de la RAI), où l'on entend un WYATT s'aventurant sur d'autres espaces plus sauvages que ceux que l'on connaît, grâce à la guimbarde notamment et divers objets (percussion) non identifiés. Il a certainement été influencé par un nouvel environnement technique, celui de la radio et de ses techniciens et une ambiance autre, l'Italie n'étant pas l'Angleterre. Quelque chose de brut bouscule sensiblement la douceur habituelle du chanteur. Comme un retour à une certaine liberté de l'improvisation. Ce qui nous intéresse ici, c'est la présence de l'artiste au travail. Mieux qu'un document forcément nécessaire aux fidèles amateurs du créateur de Soft Machine et de Matching Mole, une possible introduction à une œuvre importante de notre temps.