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Peter Hammill - A Black Box CD (album) cover

A BLACK BOX

Peter Hammill

 

Eclectic Prog

3.90 | 157 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

VanVanVan
Prog Reviewer
5 stars I've become a huge Peter Hammill fan over the past year, and this album intrigued me. It's a few albums removed from what seems to be considered his "classic" era (Silent Corner, In Camera), but it was well reviewed and, to be quite honest, what really intrigued me was the 20 minute length of the final track. What can I say, I'm a sucker for epics.

Anyway, I decided to pick it up and I have to say I am not disappointed. It's true, this album could not pass for a Van der Graaf Generator album like some of his earlier solo work could, but I see this album as moving beyond that sound, pushing the boundaries farther and experimenting just a little more than I've ever heard from Peter Hammill before (and that's saying something!).

The album kicks off with "Golden Promises," a pretty straightforward rocker that really shows that Peter Hammill can write anything and do it well. There's really nothing terribly special about it, but considering what's coming on this album it's a great way to start off the album.

"Losing Faith In Words" is next, and though it's another short song I think it could have fit in perfectly with anything VdGG ever did. The composition is stellar here, and it's tracks like this that I think really highlight what a spectacular songwriter Peter Hammill is. The ambience and variance that he's able to put into a 3-minute-and-change track is really impressive.

"Jargon King" is where I think this album gets really interesting, and makes absolutely sure you know you're not listening to the Peter Hammill of the early seventies. This track sees Hammill experimenting with sound effects, a drastic departure from anything VdGG ever did but with the same expert arrangement and spirit of exploration you'd expect. It's glitchy sounding and very strange, but it's not overlong and I think it's a really excellent addition to the album.

"Fogwalking" follows, and I would say that it's probably the highlight of the first half of the album and maybe even one of my favorite short Hammill songs ever. A dark and menacing track, it's arranged in an almost minimalist way but it works perfectly and the music complements Hammill's dramatic vocals perfectly.

"The Spirit" is probably the simplest track on the album; it's primarily driven by acoustic guitar and there's not a ton of other instrumentation besides some percussion and an electric guitar. In my opinion it sounds very upbeat for a Peter Hammill track (a bit funny to say but the man does write a lot of very dark songs). Not a whole lot else to say about this one, as it's the second shortest song on the album.

"In Slow Time" is another great, dark, brooding Hammill track that makes very good uses of synths and electronics to create an almost Krautrock sounding backtrack over which Mr. Hammill sings. It leads very nicely into "The Wipe," a short instrumental piece that sounds like it uses a lot of the same techniques as "Jargon King" to create a noisy, percussion driven outro for the first half of the album.

The second half, of course, is taken up entirely by "Flight," the 20 minute track that so interested me. It begins with a beautiful piano-driven intro and from there goes through all kinds of permutations, with each section having the kind of excellent melody and arrangement that is at this point expected from Peter Hammill. This may not be "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers," but it's pretty darn good and it's a stellar closer for the album.

I've not heard anything from Peter Hammill past this album, but I've heard this is his last really great album. As I said, I have no idea if this is true, but if it is then this is a fitting final masterpiece. It may not be the compositional tour de force that some of his early solo albums were, but it's more than interesting enough to make up for it.

4.5/5, rounded up

VanVanVan | 5/5 |

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