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Peter Hammill - Incoherence CD (album) cover

INCOHERENCE

Peter Hammill

 

Eclectic Prog

3.73 | 77 ratings

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LiquidEternity
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Peter Hammill is as much noted for his long and often dreary list of albums as he is for his wild and operatic vocals. In a move rather unusual for me, I skipped both the 80s and 90s (that is, truthfully, more than twenty albums) and jumped right into his 2004 release, Incoherence. Now, I'm incredibly leery of 70s prog artists' current trend of "returning to form" twenty or thirty years past their prime. But Peter Hammill is a special case. For starters, he's had a constant and cycling system of sounds and feelings throughout his music all this time. He's not just reforming his band now because so many of his past colleagues are as well. He has been unapologetically releasing the music he wants to for quite some time.

Which is why Incoherence is so wonderfully refreshing.

Forming a fairly cohesive forty minute suite, this album calls back all the glory of his early endeavors, both with Van der Graaf Generator and without, while at the same time being completely different and unique among his catalog. Very keyboard driven, this suite actually spends much more time being melodic and uptempo than much of Hammill's more recent catalog. Rather than stewing entirely in adult angst and darkness as per his usual, Incoherence delves into a topic near and dear to my heart: language. Different language, body language, conflicts of language, and so forth. His imperial sense of intellectualism shines wonderfully throughout, tying the words to melodies much more memorable than he usually comes out with.

Musically, though, which is the most important part of the album, Incoherence shines. Complicated keyboard patterns reminiscent of his 1980 epic Flight sparkle at points, while the additions from Gordon and Jackson meld perfectly with the sounds. His vocals, always a strong selling (or turn-off) point for his music, are powerful, passionate, and layered in harmony. Percussion is achieved through instruments and voices here rather than through drums. The thickly distorted guitars add to the feel, making it most likely the closest release to his sole opera excursion, The Fall of the House of Usher.

Though it comes together as a surprisingly solid suite, there are a few important stand out tracks. Logodaedalus, with a wonderful interplay between keyboards and a gothic sort of guitar. Its feel and tempo are maintained through the next piece, Like Perfume, except with a touch more heaviness. Cretans Always Lie returns with the stabbing force of the electric guitar, building the song towards a fantastic and highly catchy vocal performance from Hammill. The electronic keyboarding on All Greek is perfectly supported by Jackson's inimitable saxophone. Violin supercharges the instrumental interlude in Converse with a quality reminiscent of The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome. And lastly, Gone Ahead may very well be one of the most touching and moving songs of his to appear since his classic release Over, with a perfect meld of harmony on the chorus.

If you're a fan of classic solo Hammill, this album may yet entertain you. It's his strongest release of the last ten years, possibly the last twenty--in truth, my favorite since 1977's Over. It maybe is not the place to start to enjoy his solo work, but if you're already well-acquainted with his style and sound, this may yet prove to you that he can completely reimagine his sound even today, after releasing scores of albums over numerous decades.

LiquidEternity | 5/5 |

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