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Peter Hammill - In Camera CD (album) cover


Peter Hammill


Eclectic Prog

4.14 | 452 ratings

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4 stars It's amazing that a set of songs so musically disparate and haphazardly put together can form such a coherent, striking album. Indeed, the distinct spectrum of different styles finds me returning to this album more frequently than its predecessor, despite the lack of a huge centerpiece epic or anything along those lines. In Camera has all the rawness and imprecision you'd expect from a recording made largely on a domestic four- track (with studio overdubs hurriedly added afterwards) - but the compositions are some of the boldest and least relenting in Hammill's early solo period.

Lyrically, In Camera is classic PH. Reflections on the darker recesses of the soul manifest themselves in epic soliloquies like "(No More) The Sub-Mariner" and "Faint- Heart and the Sermon", both set against turbulent musical backdrops where a mutant electronic ensemble comes into play. The former is brought to it's logical conclusion in the nihilistic "Tapeworm", which is as close to typical rock music as the album comes - that is to say, not very. A simple piano riff and bursts of e-bowed guitar drone give the song a punk-like energy - which is then utterly contradicted by a wonderfully effective A Capella section, featuring layer upon layer of atonal falsetto chirps.

"Ferret and Featherbird" and "Again" are both simpler love songs. I'd nominate the latter as the albums lowest point, but that's probably just me - it's a live favourite, apparently. "Ferret and Featherbird" has a very pretty harmonic structure, complemented by the fluttering guitar and piano lines; it can be forgiven for the lethargic starting point it gives this otherwise violent album.

"The Comet, The Course, The Tail" features four overdubbed guitars and drenched reverb and chorus effects. The combination grates on the ears a little, but overall this is one of the better tracks here; it takes the concept of the Acoustic Song much further than usual. Lyrically, the song is a universalist statement on free will and fate, with an almost exaggeratedly wordy approach. It just about works.

In the final track(s), Hammill slips into the guise of Satan himself - or at least, a distinctly human personification of evil. This is ridiculously dark stuff; Gog features a droning Harmonium backdrop over which Guy Evans plays a frenzied, relentless tribal rhythm and Hammill screeches at the top of his lungs. It's an insane vocal performance, almost comic - but the lyrical imagery is frequently too powerful for that. The following section, "Magog (In Bromine Chambers)", is (one hopes!) fairly tongue in cheek - Hammill describes it as Musique Concrete, and it stands pretty much alone in his back catalogue. As a sonic experiment, it's still impressive - these ten minutes of electronic and percussive noises conjure up all kinds of diabolic images, and the demonic voice's brief appearance is well orchestrated.

This all adds up to an album with, it seems, no artistic reservations and a total willingness to experiment. It's not perfect nor always convincing, but definitely essential for Peter Hammill fans.

| 4/5 |


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