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Peter Hammill
The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage

Phil Kime:

I would like to try to obtain some perspective on this album as there was a time when I was so in love with it that when my step-father once naively and honestly enquired whether it was an album of sound effects, I was monstrously angry for days. No, it is not an album of sound-effects. I would have said at the time that is the greatest of Hammill's very early period works of genius and I still believe this in essence. This was a very verbose period for Hammill, during the Van der Graaf gap between Pawn Hearts and Godbluff. I have absolutely no trouble with accepting the verbosity as I think it contributes to some musical writing forced to be innovative to work around it. Also, as you may have noticed, I am horribly verbose too. The arrangements are generally slightly cluttered I feel and the production on the available master is not good at all. Still Modern open with a song grafted onto a bed of sounds that drift underneath. Wilhelmina starts quite gentle but has a darker bridge and intense vocal part. The brilliance begins to shine on The Lie. A thick syrup of keyboards and decaying echo and a delivery wavering between then gentle and the terrifying. Some moments of pure inspiration. Quite intense for most I suspect. Regardless of whether Hammill means what he sings, no-one sounds like they do as much as here. One of the tracks that convinced me of this man's worth. There is a tactic here where a resolution arrives at the plateau of a note and them Hammill grasps the note and roars it mercilessly until the significance of the cadence is burned into your mind. It works. Forsaken Gardens begins more promisingly than it continues but is one of those tracks that serves to perfectly support the surrounding pieces of greater moment. Red Shift is a particularly idiosyncratic Hammillesque piece with hints of what was to come when Van der Graaf were to record once more. This builds like a Van der Graaf piece to a dense finale. The percussion and keys are so Van der Graaf (not surprisingly given the personnel) that I always recommend this album to those coming from an appreciation of said band. Rubicon is a minor masterpiece with a dreamy, perfect chorus. Slightly medieval and wonderfully enigmatic. The crown of the album is A Louse is not a Home, the lengthy final track. A joyous romp through raging vocals and surreal interludes with a fine climax. With the famously incomprehensible line (unless you have the lyrics in front of you) "There is a lofty, lonely Lohengrenic castle in the clouds", Hammill launches some of his most wondrous vocals. Rough, yes. Beautiful, certainly. A truly wonderful collection of unique material.

© 1996 Phil Kime

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