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Peter Hammill - The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage CD (album) cover

THE SILENT CORNER AND THE EMPTY STAGE

Peter Hammill

 

Eclectic Prog

4.36 | 550 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

LinusW
Special Collaborator
Italian Prog Specialist
4 stars Naked, stark and pounding sincerity marks a high point of Hammill's tortured persona on The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage. It's a chilling exposť of ravaging emotional stirrings and storms set in a stately musical framework of high-impact melodies, rhythms and sonic posturing with dark experimental bite. Interestingly, it's also very diverse and full of movement in terms of general ideas and musical backing.

Where I've always found Hammill drawn to stripped-down and a bit ponderously simplistic (but dense) arrangements that brings the unhinged emotionality of his vocals front and centre, there's a refreshing delicacy and richness to this album. It's still full of those focused, top-heavy and bare melodies that just barely hold up under the weight of the immense vocal delivery, but in the end it never really loses balance.

Some skeletal and spindly guitar here and there, keyboard noodling and oscillations erratically lost in time and space, a wash of ceremonially dignified organ, a flute deliciously fluttering around like a doomed moth in the vicinity of the otherwise electrified atmosphere, the dry and pure sounds of a harmonium and the ringing, yearning clarity of piano, edgy saxophone. There's more, but the point is that it feels rich and ever so slightly more of an extrovert dialogue (rather than an introvert diatribe), something I've always considered a bonus where Hammill is concerned. Melodies (acoustic or electric) come and go, interlock, reach a burning point in a pressure-relieving and resolving hook or a beautifully placed pause before dissipating into asocial disharmony or starting over in yet another intricate pattern and emotional state. At times it borders a more twisted side of symphonic. There's even enough room for the scaled-down and musically intimate to sneak in with the airier singer-songwriter material you often hear in his solo efforts.

But the real magic comes from how this wealth and diversity flow between sensitive and frail grace and crushing and commanding onslaughts of anger and frustration. It's a constant battle between reflective and lucid moments and grinding chaos and catharsis. Fuzzy, screeching or sharp guitar and dirty bass pommel the unwary into submission and push you ever downwards into spiraling noise, accompanied by an organ collapsing in on itself or another tasty sonic calamity . Other times it's more subtle, letting things move towards uncertainty and madness in gradually disassociating instruments or by lurking hints of trouble in bubbling, underlying atonality.

I guess the middle-point between these two sides are the more rocking Van Der Graaf Generator-styled parts, with spitting, synchronized instrumental and vocal attack, concentrating the layering into sharp, thrusting strikes of unapologetic impact. Everything is lined up and thrown right at you in cascading force, leaving a smell of vitriol and cordite in its wake.

Even if it's never been said outright yet, you might have guessed that this isn't a smooth or forgiving affair. It takes its toll, even the less intense bits. While there are certainly a lot of dark, destructive and frustrated energy, ominous uncertainty and disorder around, even the softer and more melodious bits have a beautiful, but sapping, sadness and haunting melancholia. But in spite of that it is still more welcoming, diverse and outgoing than a lot of Hammill's other output. Just a bit more willingly engaging.

An album that's been growing on me for years and one that's teasingly near the masterpiece status so many think it deserves. Only time will tell.

4 stars.

//LinusW

LinusW | 4/5 |

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