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Peter Hammill - A Black Box CD (album) cover


Peter Hammill


Eclectic Prog

3.93 | 281 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Feeling comfortable with the kind of sound delivered in his two previous albums, Peter Hammill decided to dig a bit deeper into the urgent tones of new wave for A Black Box, his farewell to the 70s album. All in all, he is still very determined to solidly retain the exprimental, uncompromising vibe that has (almost) always characterized the writing and recording processes for his discography. In few moments like this you can notice the familiy airs beween what other brilliant solo composers/performers where doing at the time: Peter Gabriel and David Bowie. Indeed, the dark aggressiveness instilled in this album's rockier pieces bears various sources of coincidence with what Gabriel delivered in his second album and what Bowie had been doing from his Low days. Yet, there is also a noticeable differential, and that's Hammill endless (so far) gusto for challenging frameworks in, at least, part of the repertoire - there are the unusual rhythm patterns of 'Losing Faith in Words', the deconstructive vibes of 'Jargon King' and 'Wipe', and last but not least, a 20- minute suite with a clever plotline and lots of various sections, very (un) fashionably proggressive, indeed. Too bad that Hammill himsef decided to keep on experimenting with his amateurish drumming techiques - arguably, his only musical experiment gone wrong. Otherwise, the rhythm section would have been as robust as it was demanded in some particular moments of the album. Well, the album starts with the powerful rocker 'Golden Promises', displaying a mixture of The Tubes and King Crimson. The aforementioned 'Losing Faith in Words' takes this vibe to a reasonably enhanced complexity in structure: the use of unusual rhythm patterns leads to climatic passages, making this song more than just a pop-related song. Then comes the reign for 'The Jargon King', another brilliant anti-song with the engineering process becoming an integral part of the instrumental input (not unlike 'A Motorbike in Afrika' from The Future Now): the Muslim-based multilayered vocalizations create a certain hynotic vibe through the tribal spirit stated by the programmed percussion. 'Fog Walking' and 'In Slow Time' make use of new wave synth ambiences with a slight Gothic mood and an overbearing menacing air of mystery (especially the latter). Between the two, 'The Spirit' is more of a protest song against the rigid moral laws that eventually punished Oscar Wilde for daring to live his passions according to his individual spirit. The lines They call that living a normal life / but normality's not standardised. / Though the body gets ever more root-bound / the spirit won't be denied are just irresistible. 'The Wipe' is a brief instrumental experimentation a-la 'Jargon King', closing the album's first half and opening the gates for the second half. 'Flight' is the first Hammill's individual tour-de-force. The grave solemnity of 'Flying Blind' sets the pace for most of the following sections; 'The White Cane Fandango' brings us back to familiar VdGG territory with its versatile vocal melodies and twisted tempo; the pairing of the last part of 'Cockpit' and the 'Silk-worm Wings' section plants the seed for the progressive climax (He say nothing is quite what it seems. / I say nothing is nothing!). The namesake section is not really musically connected to the penultimate one, but an epilogue to the whole epic: its massive keyboard bases set a testimony of pure Hammill-esque artsy approach to rock music. A Black Box fits well in any prog or prog-oriented album collection.

Cesar Inca | 4/5 |


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