Robert Wyatt ― Maryan

One of Robert’s great, subtle, riverine songs.

There is a special, resonant magic that happens when a song’s lyrics and melody mingle and merge. Take the gently meandering poetry of “Maryan” off the Shleep album. The lyrics unroll and bend with the melody like a river unrolling to its delta. There’s a tonal consistency to the song, a timelessness like a drone with downstream force ― addressing only its own flow (cue Wagner’s Rheingold prelude). It’s a beguilingly complex-as-simple song structure that comprises a long melodic verse, and some equally long instrumentals over basic but unexpected chord changes. There is no chorus, and then the verse is repeated ― the last word ‘Maryan’ stretching and rising in extended harmony. But it’s one of the longest verse-melodies in the business ― I think only Prince’s “7” comes close in duration ― and there too a distinct chorus is lacking, unnecessary. The lyrics and words pitch and bend to conform with the colourful melody just as the sound and vibe of the song remain harmonious with the natural setting. 

Over an ocean away,
Like salmon…

Actually, the salmon isn’t going downstream but back to the icy source of the river. Which is a woman. It’s a lovely dream-like tension of thematic undercurrent and execution. Unhurried, layered with trumpet and violin, harmonious like a small ecosystem of song. Circle of life stuff. Vaguely Joycean. And perfectly tuned to the subconscious themes of Shleep. Inspiration and return to nature via art.

A note should be made of the great run of Wyatt albums beginning with Shleep: Wyatt is singular in a way that’s difficult to transcribe ― he’s one of the most musical songwriters in a way that takes from free jazz and prog and pop, and yet he makes completely satisfying albums (in the old school sense) that are as intelligent as they’re artistic. He has more genius than tradition. He is an internationalist, a player in all styles living in Britain; wholly self-made and maturing on an ongoing basis. I’m tempted to call him the Dylan of Britain as there are touches of the 60s experimentalist about Wyatt, and I wanted to parallel his run of albums with Dylan’s late explosion from Time Out of Mind on ― but by revealing contrast, Dylan’s recent run is a devolution to genre whereas Wyatt’s is a true extension of the craft ― stretching and trialling free experiments of melody and form. His a wonderfully active musical brain. A song scientist using moody, disconcerting chords, gnomic impressionism, bemused wit and tender dilation as his alchemic tools. Singular and yet containing multitudes, as they say.

Author: Rino Breebaart

Editor. Writer. Secret bass player.

3 thoughts on “Robert Wyatt ― Maryan”

  1. Hi Rino.
    …. ¿Casualty..?. (I don´t think so), both form a palyndrome . ¿Only the round trip of a salmon ?. ¿Is there any other explanation for what the song means?.


  2. The music was written by Phillip Catherine it is on the album September Man.It’s title is Nairam.Robert’s title is an anagram of that,changing the i in nairam for a y.


  3. The original tune is called Nairam,written by Philip Catherine and is on the album september man,1974.Robert has added lyrics.


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