My love of the Canterbury scene thanks to the Romantic Warriors documentary series, just made me open the door up more to see what the bands and artists were doing. Robert Wyatt is one of them. In 1968, the Soft Machine had completed their second tour in the United States after supporting the Jimi Hendrix Experience. When the tour was done, Wyatt headed into the one of the studios in both T.T.G Studios and Record Plant studios to record in both Hollywood, California and in New York City from October to November of that year.
Cuneiform Records released this unearthed material back in 2013 and it’s a real gem of hearing Wyatt not just playing drums, but playing Piano, Organ, Bass, and Electric Piano. When you listen to the ’68 recordings, even though there is some surface noise on here, you can close your eyes and being at those sessions and watching Wyatt improvise with help from people such as Hugh Hopper and Mike Ratledge, and the late great Jimi Hendrix who plays Bass on one of the tracks on the album.
Slow Walkin’ Talk which features Hendrix’s Bass thumping and car-driven lines, carries a bit of the shuffling Blues between Piano and Drums whilst in the styles of a jazzier version of Highway Chile that gives it a catchy groove. I could imagine both Wyatt and Hendrix were smiling and having a great time recording this composition.
Chelsa which he and Soft Machine alumni Kevin Ayers wrote, features Ratledge’s soulful Hammond Organ as Wyatt sings through wonderfully and would one day revisit the track with his group Matching Mole as it would be reincarnated as Signed Curtain on their first sole self-titled debut album in 1972 after his departure with the Soft Machine on the album, Fourth.
The 18-minute Rivmic Melodies are sections of the first side of The Soft Machine’s second album. Featuring drum patterns, double-tracking vocals, spoken dialog, and piano reverb with a delay effect. It feels like Wyatt was doing a score for one of the paintings for Salvador Dali, Hannah Hoch, and Oskar Fischinger with elements of the Avant-Garde sound and Musique Concrete with a structured and chaotic blare.
The closing 20-minute Moon in June is an earlier version of what would later be on the Soft Machine’s Third album. The second half of the piece was recorded in mid-1969 in England as he, Hopper, and Ratledge take this version into experimentation, walking blues, confession singing, and then heading back into the psychedelic twist thanks to the fuzz-tone switch for the last 11-minutes.
Wyatt improvises with his vocal arrangements and the intense drum patterns and the screeching effect from both Hugh and Mike is like a work-out that increases the volume level. The crescendo section comes into place and then it changes into a smooth and haunting movement as the Organ goes into an ambient cavernous section that will send chills down the spine.
Experimental, Canterbury, Avant-Garde, Musique Concrete, Pop, and Jazz, it’s all here. Wyatt really delves into the ocean of unbelievable results that will give you an understanding on what he would bring to the tables for interesting and mind-boggling results. For any fan of Soft Machine and Robert Wyatt, this is a must have to sink into and Cuneiform Records have unleashed an amazing hidden treasure.