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Different Every Time


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  • Since leaving Soft Machine, Robert Wyatt has pursued a restless, delightfully confounding, occasionally maddening exploratory path as solo artist and collaborator. There are no complete compilations of his work. Even his nine-disc box set omitted End of an Ear and both Matching Mole albums. Different Every Time was assembled to accompany Marcus O'Dair's fantastic Wyatt biography of the same title. It was curated by Wyatt, his collaborator, wife, and artist Alfreda Benge, Andy Childs, and the author. The first disc, subtitled "Ex Machina," is chronologically compiled from tracks by Soft Machine (a nearly 20-minute "Moon in June"), two with Matching Mole, and his Rough Trade, Gramavision, and Domino catalogs. It's "ruthlessly selective." There are no tracks from End of an Ear or Rock Bottom, save for a live version of the latter's "A Last Straw." Even his cover of "I'm a Believer" has been omitted--though it does contain his wonderful version of Chris Andrews' "Yesterday Man" with John Greaves, Mongezi Feza, and Gary Windo. "Team Spirit" from Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard is here, with Brian Eno on "direct inject jazz ray gun," as is his killer reinvention of Chic's "At Last I Am Free," from the Rough Trade years. The rest of the material on disc one includes "Cuckoo Madame" and "Free Will and Testament." It's a bit provocative in its choices, but excellent. Disc two is the real ear opener. Subtitled "Benign Dictatorships," it contains only one of his own recordings, "Shipbuilding," which was written specially for him by Elvis Costello and Clive Langer. Essentially, though, Different Every Time focuses on Wyatt's contributions to the recordings of others. Sequenced aesthetically rather than chronologically, these 17 tunes are reason enough to purchase this set. There are no highlights: everything here is essential. Contents include vocals on Swedish jazz artist Jeanette Lindstr”m's "River" (from Attitude & Orbit Control), Anja Garbarek's "The Diver" from her Smiling & Waving (produced by Mark Hollis), and "We're Looking for a Lot of Love," with Hot Chip. There are two selections from jazz trumpeter/composer Michael Mantler: "A L'Abbatoire" from 1987's Many Have No Speech (which also featured Jack Bruce), and "Sinking Spell" from The Hapless Child (based on the stories of Edward Gorey). "Siam," from Nick Mason's Fictitious Sports, is here, as is the 12" jazz dance mix of Working Week's "Venceremos (We Will Win)" -- the other two vocalists are Claudia Figueroa and Tracey Thorn. Also included is "Frontera" from Phil Manzanera's Diamond Head, and tracks with Steve Nieve, Cristina Don…, Epic Soundtracks, and Bj”rk. The closer is John Cage's "Experiences No. 2" from a split release with Jan Steele on Eno's Obscure label in 1975, and in it Wyatt sings an e.e. cummings' poem. Despite inevitable fan discussion about what might have been included ("Kingdoms" from Ultramarine maybe? ), Different Every Time goes much further than previous comps in communicating the vast range of Wyatt's musical persona and is a brilliant introduction for newcomers. ~ Thom Jurek
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