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Peter Hammill - Peter Hammill/Gary Lucas: Other World CD (album) cover

PETER HAMMILL/GARY LUCAS: OTHER WORLD

Peter Hammill

 

Eclectic Prog

3.56 | 74 ratings

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1970sgenesisfan
4 stars Hypothetically, if I were asked to pigeonhole this album into some sort of genre or category, the closest I would be able to come would probably be something along the lines of twisted, psychedelic folk. Let me explain. This collaboration between Van der Graaf Generator frontman Peter Hammill and guitar maestro Gary Lucas, of Captain Beefheart fame, is--in a word--otherworldly. For every track here which could be classified as a straightforward, melodic "song" (and there are plenty), there's a spacey, instrumental soundscape to match.

Of the "normal" songs, the opening "Spinning Coins"--short although it might be--starts the album off strong. Considering his age, Peter Hammill's voice sounds to be holding up very well, and Gary Lucas, who I was not acquainted with prior to hearing this album, makes his presence felt from the first note with some simple but oh-so-effective guitar chords. It's very solid, as are nearly all of the traditional songs, if not particularly remarkable. "Of Kith and Kin," by contrast, stood out from the beginning and has only gotten more enjoyable with repeated listens. I love how Hammill's earnest vocal in the verses is juxtaposed with the song's reflective, melancholy bridge to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts. The instrumental backing here, a tasteful mixture of Lucas's strong acoustic guitar and Hammill's soundscapes, is simply perfect. "This is Showbiz," with its layers of vocals and excellent sense of rhythm, is another standout, as is the melodic, almost playful "Black Ice".

Unfortunately, Otherworld isn't without it's weak points, and a particularly unfortunate one comes in the form of "Cash" which, despite a strong start, quickly starts to sound contrived, somehow lacking enough ideas to sustain its paltry three minute running time. I've also found that, try as I might, I can't remember much of anything when it comes to the vocal part to "Two Views". I really dig Gary's eerie, echoey guitar part, though, so it can stay. On the whole, these songs are--

--never all that far from veering in the direction of the bizarre. Whether they come in the middle of a relatively normal track or not (there's a pretty awesome psychedelic freakout in the middle of "Black Ice"), the instrumental, soundscape type work is something which really sets this album apart. "Some Kind of Fracas," for example, despite a fairly normal start, quickly dissolves into an ugly, almost Frippian mass of sound... and it works. I wasn't a huge fan of these pieces when I first heard the album, but the more times I listen the more details I pick out, and the more I realize how unique each piece is from the others. I won't try to talk about them in too much detail (I don't think I could anyway), but I will say that when combined with the other songs, they give this album a powerfully strange atmosphere that makes the whole thing work. Check out "Built from Scratch" or "Slippery Slope" to see what I mean.

To close, I feel that it's worth mentioning just how much Gary Lucas adds to this album. If Hammill had performed these songs alone, my evaluation would still be positive, but Lucas's often understated guitar playing takes things to another level, especially when compared to Hammill's more recent work. There's an energy here which I thought some of those albums lacked, good as they often were. Although Otherworld isn't likely to blow your socks off, it's worth checking out if you're a fan of either Hammill or Lucas.

3.5 stars, rounded to 4 because I'm in a good mood.

**Originally published (by me) on rockandprogreviews.wordpress.com

1970sgenesisfan | 4/5 |

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