Personnel: Ivor Cutler (vocals).
While not necessarily the best introduction to the works of Glaswegian poet, author, songwriter, and true outsider artist Ivor Cutler, A Flat Man, originally issued by Creation in 1998 is his final studio album. Cutler passed away at the age of 77, in 2006. The word "best" in the above sentence is not meant in any way to cast aspersions on the work contained herein. All of these 48 pieces -- no that's not a typo -- on this single-disc collection are rather brilliant. The sound of a man who has pursued his unclassifiable art and the Muse that inspired it for 70 years -- Cutler began his preoccupation of celebrating the absurdity of the world and the beauty inside it when he was a teenage runaway before WWII. Of course all of these pieces are short, the longest is just under four minutes and it is the closing "EP 1: Doing the Bathroom." The rest of selections on the set range from 30 seconds to two minutes, tops. These poems, songs (Cutler sings in a heavier voice than he recites, but its rather dry sense of drama and wry humor as he accompanies himself on the harmonium or a kalimba are real highlights here), observations, and short stories are tender, hilarious, sad, and utterly human. At the opening of "What?" after a few kalimba notes of introduction, Cutler matter of factly states: "Where man has not been to give them names/Objects on desert islands do not know what they are/Taking no chances, they stand still and wait/Quietly excited, for hundreds of thousands of years." the kalimba enters again. Done. This is empathic tenderness articulated as a way of thinking most humans do not. Yet this was the world Cutler inhabited his entire life. In other pieces, like "Jam," He sings with his harmonium: "What's your favorite jam? Traffic jam/Traffic jam...What's wrong with raspberry? How's about plum?..." The absurdities of the mechanized and natural worlds, which are inhabited by humans simultaneously, are contained in these few lines. Beautiful. There is too much to Cutler to sum up in a review. But if you do anything this year, or any other, look him up, read about him, and dig up his work. This may not be the best place to start with Cutler -- check Ivor Cutler of Y'Hup or Ludo if you can find them -- but it is as good a place as any to laugh, scratch your head, and be quietly awed. ~ Thom Jurek