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Peter Hammill - A Black Box CD (album) cover

A BLACK BOX

Peter Hammill

 

Eclectic Prog

3.90 | 163 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

slipperman
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Once again, this Hammill solo album is produced and performed mostly by Hammill, with the only help this time coming from three Davids (Lord, the ubiquitous Jackson, and Ferguson). 'A Black Box' is split between upbeat, fairly straightforward material ("Golden Promises", "Losing Faith In Words", and a song that recalls the very first Van Der Graaf Generator album, "The Spirit") and difficult experimental material that spans a wide sonic scope. These songs are probably of most interest to the majority of people frequenting this site, so let's pull those out for a closer look:

"Jargon King" is a cut-and-paste sort of pastiche, electronics spitting and sputtering, cold, robotic, strange. Clearly ahead of its time and one for Radiohead fans to ponder. Proto-'Kid A', perhaps?

"Fogwalking" conjures a creepy atmosphere, one of Hammill's darkest songs, a track frozen in paranoia and fear, with Hammill playing this character in a subtle manner, never going over-the-top with melodramatics, keeping things intensely calm, waiting in anticipation, perhaps, of what's within the fog.

"In Slow Time" is a brooding number, heavy on gliding atmosphere, majestic and somewhat exotic. It feels like the companion-piece to "Fogwalking", maintaining an even-keeled flow within its cloudy, melancholy haze.

"The Wipe". Again, I can't help but think of Radiohead's 'Kid A' or 'Amnesiac' here. Maybe I just have a narrow frame of reference for this kind of material, but this bizarre puzzle of electronics, phasing and shifting, certainly conjures the uncomfortable feeling Radiohead achieved on those two albums. Curiously, it's one of very few Hammill instrumentals.though it's certainly not an instrumental by any traditional measure.

"Flight". A massive undertaking, one you can only know after 10 or 15 close listens. Stretching from calm and beautiful to disturbing in its 20-minute span, "Flight" ranks amongst the most innovate songs Hammill has been involved with, certainly on the same elevated level as epics like "Gog Magog (In Bromine Chambers)", "(In The) Black Room/The Tower" and "A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers".

This is the last of the truly progressive Peter Hammill solo albums (that I've heard, anyway). 'A Black Box' is a mandatory listen for fans of the man's '70s work, and a bittersweet swansong before his music took on a much more conventional shape.

slipperman | 4/5 |

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