Michael Mantler: Many Have No Speech (WATT/19)

Many Have No Speech

Michael Mantler
Many Have No Speech

Jack Bruce voice
Marianne Faithfull voice
Robert Wyatt voice
Michael Mantler trumpet
Rick Fenn guitar
The Danish Concert Radio Orchestra
Peder Kargerup
Orchestra recorded and mixed May 1987 at the Danish Radio, Copenhagen
Engineers: Ole Hviid and Jorn Jacobsen
Producer: Andy Sundstrom
All other material recorded May through December 1987 at West 3 Recording Studios, London (engineer: John McGowan), Grog Kill Studio, Willow, New York (engineer: Michael Mantler), and Newbury Sound, Boston (engineer: Paul Arnold)
Album mixed January 1988 by Michael Mantler at Grog Kill Studio
Mastering by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound, New York
Album produced by Michael Mantler
Release date: May 30, 1988

After the leaking tire of Live, how redemptive to hear Jack Bruce’s voice hit the ground with the strength of a 4×4 in convoy formation with Marianne Faithfull and Robert Wyatt. Together, they navigate prose and poetry of Samuel Beckett, Ernst Meister, and Philippe Soupault for a symphony of grit and genuine emotion.

The commanding air that flows through Mantler’s trumpet welcomes us as if by the outstretched hands of a keeper of knowledge and opens a semantic portal to the netherworld of communication. The songs that follow are short (some no longer than 20 seconds), thus allowing us to focus on every morpheme with rapt attention. So full are these glimpses of human fracture that the longest tracks—“Something There” (a setting of Beckett sung by Bruce clocking in at three and a half minutes) and the spoken gem “Comrade” (a setting of Soupalt, in Pat Nolan’s English translation, at nearly four and a half)—feel epic by comparison. Thus, words are shown to be self-driven entities as the guitar of Rick Fenn clenches its psychological teeth around the line “songs are songs and the days days.” Faithfull is, for lack of better descriptors, creepy and beguiling. Her reading of Beckett’s “Imagine” is gut-wrenching, Fenn’s guitar serving as an emotional mesh through which hardships are pushed in the hopes of leaving behind flecks of gold. The tenacity of “En Cadence” is another noteworthy dive inward.

Wyatt only gets three appearances, but his voice is a welcome color change. His take on Soupault’s “Tant De Temps” is evocative to the max, the vocal equivalent of paint being moved across a surface as strings, trumpet, and percussion hold their gesso underneath. “L’Abbatoir” burrows deeper under the skin. Its magical combinations presage the insistence of Faithfull’s later tracks. “Prisonniers” is an echo from beyond the grave of atrocity.

Given the aphoristic structure it emplos, Many Have No Speech almost feels like a language instruction tape set to music. Each vignette is filled with enough wisdom, at once practical and profound, to retread many times over. This is not background music. It’s foreground music.

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