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Robert Wyatt, an art-rock category-confounder who sometimes lists toward the traditional, weaves seemingly disparate strands into this set of haunting sob-songs, jazz standards, and originals. Cello, alto sax, and strings throw washes of color behind achingly depressive interpretations ("Laura," "Lullaby for Irene," "Lush Life"). These painstaking stretches are almost sarcastically sweet, with Wyatt's lispy vocal adding ironic poignance. Elements that seem, if not dissonant, at least surprising, have a way of reopening the ears to such well-masticated chestnuts.

Other tracks quietly stun with quirky hybrids of moldy forms with the mechanistic and ice-water fresh: "Where Are They Now?" should make samplers and mixers around the world wonder if they should have kept their day jobs. "Maryan" is strange and lovely, giving the brain a gentle jolt: listen to it while doing housework and see if you don't stop in mid-sweep to break out the paint box, model train, or love doll parts that have been lying under a cloth in the garage. "Round Midnight" goes much further 'round than previous versions — an acid trip soaked in rum and doilies, it's parsed so that nothing ever seems "too much." Aaron Copland laid part of this path. It takes a genius who came of age in the ’60s to imagine it doubling back through the psyche.

  • Album: For the Ghosts Within (2010)
  • Artist: Wyatt/Atzmon/Stephen
  • Label: Domino
  • Songs: (1) Laura (2) Lullaby For Irene (3) The Ghosts Within (4) Where Are They Now? (5) Maryan (6) Round Midnight (7) Lush Life (8) What's New (9) In a Sentimental Mood (10) At Last I Am Free (11) What a Wonderful World
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