Robert Wyatt: Shleep

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Album: Shleep
Label: Thirsty Ear

For fans of the former Soft Machine drummer/singer, each new Robert Wyatt disc is cause for celebration. Others may have only heard of the paraplegic auteur via his well-regarded interpretations of songs as varied as Neil Diamond's "I'm A Believer" and Elvis Costello's "Shipbuilding." But for the vast majority of music listeners who have never been introduced to Wyatt's adventurous vision, Shleep is as good a place to start as any. This is Wyatt's first album of original music in seven years, and it's peppered with a great cast of longtime friends (like Phil Manzanera and Brian Eno) and younger admirers (like Paul Weller). The album careens smoothly from bouncing art-pop ("Heaps Of Sheeps," the best quirky pop song Eno has laid his hands on in years) to excursions into abstract, jazzy territory (best illustrated by the four-song suite co-written by Wyatt and wife Alfreda Benge). Which is to say that Shleep is basically a continuation of what Wyatt has been doing for the last 30-odd years, tempered as usual by his distinctive, delicate voice, which has gracefully aged into a thing of beauty.