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Peter Hammill - A Black Box CD (album) cover


Peter Hammill


Eclectic Prog

3.93 | 281 ratings

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4 stars Van Der Graaf Generator's final album was a slightly disappointing attempt to update the band's sound in keeping with the punk and new wave styles that were emerging at the time. This was followed up a bit more successfully on the solo albums PH7 and in particular the excellent The Future Now, which was the album before this. These were largely solo recordings of short, punchy songs that were reminiscent in some ways of Nadir's Big Chance, but with extensive use of synthesisers. A Black Box saw Hammill reconcile the two different strands of his work - Side 1 was a sequence of short numbers in the style of the last 2 solo albums, while Side 2 was a 20 minute epic that was the closest thing to classic VDGG that he'd put out in years.

The short songs on side 1 are a diverse selection, featuring Hammill's guitar and piano over some very basic drumming, with sketchy synth or sax embellishments. He also sings with a raw passion that hadn't been heard to this extent since Godbluff. His delivery of songs like Losing Faith In Words would put many punk singers in the shade for sheer aggression, while on the eerie Fogwalking he shows a chilling restraint.

Flight, the 20 minute epic which takes up the second half of the album, is one for the old VDGG fans. The best parts are the sections which feature Hammill accompanying himself on the piano - no overdubs or special effects, just a superb songwriter delivering one of his best pieces straight into the microphone.

A Black Box is one of Hammill's best post VDGG solo albums, and it would be several years before he equalled it. Highly recommended.

Syzygy | 4/5 |


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