Robert Wyatt & Bertrand Burgalat - This Summer Night

Ian Atherton 07/10/2008

Rating: 4/5

Despite Robert Wyatt's claim that he dislikes disconcerting people (“although often when I try to be normal I disconcert anyway”), the former Soft Machine drummer and vocalist had trodden an eccentric path, to the extent that a postmodern prank has been named in his honour - Wyatting, the process of playing weird tracks on a jukebox purely to annoy fellow patrons (the bearded one's 1991 avant-garde jazz-rock album Dondestan is a particular favourite for bewildering unsuspecting pubgoers).

Since being confined to a wheelchair following a drunken accident in 1973, Wyatt has collaborated with Bjork, David Gilmour, Paul Weller and Brian Eno, recorded definitive covers of The Monkees' cheery I'm A Believer and Elvis Costello's Falklands War-inspired Shipbuilding, and released more than a dozen charming, genre-defying solo albums.
Now - just as autumn falls - comes this summery collaboration with French producer Bertrand Burgalat, an upbeat singalong in which Wyatt's emotional falsetto sits atop a tinny backing of skimming drums, shimmering synth and soaring strings. While the production is reminiscent of 1985's heavily political classic Old Rottenhat, the lyrical sentiment is rather lighter: “This is such a perfect night, this summer night, a night just made for dancing…”.

In other hands this could be horribly saccharine, but Wyatt's tone of wonderment renders it sublime, while variety is ensured by a vocal appearance by Burgalat himself and a series of incongruous jumps and scratches that eventually judder the song to a halt after a bewitchingly brief four minutes.

In a perfect world this would be a hit, but instead it's just another Robert Wyatt moment to treasure. Sadly though, it's just too darn perky to use for Wyatting - the Friday-night punters might even enjoy it.