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Peter Hammill - In Camera CD (album) cover


Peter Hammill

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5 stars This is, for me, one of the best Psycho-Prog albums I ever heard. I loosely love it. There's unique atmosphere inside. Listen "No more (the submariner)" and you will perceive, at their best, all the sturm-und-drang feelings that prog music often tends to transmit. There's melancholy mixed with rage, there's evil and obscurity, wired and wireless moods, infinite horizons, abyss and salvation. It also contains what represents - pheraps - the best lyric-excerpt that Progressive Golden Era gave to us: "It's a hallmark of adulthood that our options diminish as our faculties for choice increase."
Report this review (#17751)
Posted Monday, January 26, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars What a masterpiece! A side of sharp, moving songs and a sidelong suite of very threatening improvisation. This is the culmination of pH's early solo period and is essential. The usual sound quality problems apply, but don't let that put you off a great achievemnt.
Report this review (#17752)
Posted Friday, February 6, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars Another good and solid solo album in between VDGG era and also including musician from the band. Gog and Magog obviously would 've been on an other album if a certain band existed at the time . Now which band would I be talking about. Actually the Gog part is great but as the Magog part comes in , I eject the Cd because it does not stand repeated listenings. Sub-mariner and Sermon are my faves on this album but Tapeworm , Comet , and again are fine also. Give it another halfstar.
Report this review (#17753)
Posted Friday, February 27, 2004 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars IMHO, 'In Camera' is Peter Hammill's most amazing accomplishment, since its repertoire shows him developing his creative powers as a songwriter and performer and pushing them to levels of demential complexity and incredibly obscure awareness that he had never reached before and would never try to reach again. In this album, he continues to exorcise his VdGG ghosts like he previously did in 'Chameleon' and 'Silent Corner', but this time, the sonic paraphernalia is enriched by some heavy use of synthesizers and mellotron, as well as an enhanced (as if it were possible,... which apparently was) sense of dramatism and intellectual passion: generally speaking, the most aggressive parts of 'In Camera' remind me a lot of the ultra-disturbed spirit of "Pawn Hearts". The frustrated adult anger in 'Sub-mariner', the existentialist reflective confusion in 'Faint-Heart', and the apocalyptical delirium in 'Gog/Magog' are relevantly equalled by their respective bizarre instrumentations. Electronic tour-de-force rooted on the piano bases (track 2). Symphonic layers and counterpoints on various keyboards treated as a Gothic instrumental ensemble (track 5). A fiery marriage of creepy loud harmonium and tribal multi-drumming (track 7), followed by a 10 minute limbo-esque passage of electronic and percussive effects (including a somber agonizing soliloquy), which serves as an oppressive sonic portrait of never ending putrefaction. Very much in the vein of krautrock at its most bizarre, 'Magog' ends the album with that kind of psychological distress that leaves you speechless for a while, after the music has died: not easy to digest, but definitely a delicious meal for privileged tastes. But not all of this album is about explosing psychedelia: there is also room for acoustic-driven introspections, such as the opening track (actually, an old VdGG acoustic number from their very early days), the beautiful ballad 'Again', and the reflective 'The Comet, The Course, The Tail'. The latter brings an emotional tension directly related to the mood provided by the stronger songs. 'Tapeworm', although built on a rock'n'roll basis, includes complex vocal arrangements and some occasional tempo shifts in order to avoid any frivolous catchiness. In conclusion, this is a masterpiece not supposed to be "literallly" enjoyed, but to be assumed as a challenge by the listener regarding their sense of aesthetical adventure, and eventually a test to their mental health, as well.
Report this review (#17755)
Posted Saturday, May 29, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars ph in camera is a amazing finish for most terrible trilogy in music, those walls of guitars, those multiples riffs and beats like hell always live around us. is like a thousand voices whispering in the dark trying find refugee in the torment....later ear a sense of pleasure stay a few sec on my lips., maybe the death has gone, maybe the life is true, maybe later death there are more...

the comet, the gog, ...are ...well...

Report this review (#17757)
Posted Thursday, August 12, 2004 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#17758)
Posted Sunday, January 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Work announced in 1974 "In Camera". The content can be completely called VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR. Sexy vocal strongly colors the whole volume. It is a voice like god of death. David Hentschel participates as an engineer and a synthesizer player. Moreover, Chris Judge Smith of an initial member also participates by the percussion.
Report this review (#47264)
Posted Monday, September 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
Marc Baum
4 stars "In Camera" was my first touch with a Peter Hammill solo album. It's also acclaimed as one of his best solo works (only "The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage" is better), and it could be called a Van Der Graaf Generator record, specially because of the appearance of David Jackson and Guy Evans. Only the miss of Hugh Banton is the reason for beeing a clear Hammill solo effort. The music reminds very much on VdGG throughout the record, specially the dark atmosphere of the songs. The only reason for me not giving 5 stars to this record is the final track "Gog Magog (In Bromine Chambers)", which starts awesomely, but loses the line after seven minutes and comes close to pure disaster. I am not frightened of experimental parts, but ten minutes full of strange sound-collapse is not for the faint of heart and simply pulls down the overall impression I have about this album, which could be a masterpiece, but this final track destroys it. The other songs are all excellent, with superb instrumentation and a Peter Hammill in top form, so it's a highly recommended record for fans of VdGG and Peter Hammill.

Rating: 8.5/10 points = 85 % on MPV scale = 4/5 stars

point-system: 0 - 3 points = 1 star / 3.5 - 5.5 points = 2 stars / 6 - 7 points = 3 stars / 7.5 - 8.5 points = 4 stars / 9 - 10 points = 5 stars

Excellent addition to any prog music collection

Report this review (#55656)
Posted Wednesday, November 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
Andrea Cortese
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Just a couple of months ago I decided to pick up an album of Peter Hammill, due, mainly, to great admiration I feel for Van Der Graaf Generator and for their original sinister and visionary music from songs as Necromancer up to Cat's Eye/Yellow Fever (Running), through Killer, Arrow, Sleepwalkers et cetera.

The first impression was not as good as I thought before maybe because of the second half of the immense closer, the "Magog (In Bromine Chambers)" section which contents only a sequence of sounds and noises "ex infernis"! Not exactly my cup of tea! Gog and Magog are ancient hebrew words, used by Ezekiel prophet initially to speak about the prince (Gog) of the folks of Magog and then, in the New Testament (Apocalipse 20,7), the servants of the Antichrist. Apostle John tells that, after a thousand of years of being imprisoned, Satan will be free and exit from the abyss to move war against God. Gog and Magog seem to be two nations on the earth that will be called by Satan on his side for the decisive fight. Great and original intuition by Hammill...what a pity that the musical transplant did not equally come out well!

The other tracks are moderately good, but the whole album appears to be very different from what I get used to hear from VdGG. "Ferret and Featherbird" is very interesting with a dreamy intro that made reminded me of what I felt listening to Refugees the first time! In the same softer vein is also "Again", a delicate and mellow acoustic gem as sad as usual...

"No More the Sub-Mariner" is the more "strange" track here, in my opinion, with those evident keyboards! Very dark and deep atmosphere. In a similar line "Faint- Heart and the Sermon", but with more theatrical development and structure.

"The Comet, the Course, the Tail" is the more varied and consistent song of In Camera, the best track of the album, in my opinion! Very inspired arrangements and vocals by Hammill, a classic!

In conclusion, not a masterpiece for sure, neither an album of easy listening also for prog lovers, but the demonstration of the uniqueness of this charismatic artist!

3.5 stars.

Report this review (#69152)
Posted Sunday, February 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars A great album in my opinion, never one to stand still Hammill takes hold of his emotions and shakes them until hes blue in the face, comes across as anger and sadness in equal parts.

The feel of this album is slightly gothic (something I haven't associated with Hammill in much of his solo work), maybe its the photo of him on the cover looking very dashing in his favourite cape.

"Ferret and Featherbird" starts the album in a slightly maudlin note and on the first few listenings seems to go nowhere, but stick with it and the beauty of this track is revealed, a splendid opener (although I can't fathom out the titular ferret or featherbird in the song it must mean something, to Peter).

"No-more the sub-Mariner" is another strong song, must be about the passing of childhood and the dreams and ambitions of childhood that have passed him by never became the here a la Humphrey Bogart or Victor Mature, but we got an outstanding musician instead, so all was not lost.

"Tapeworm" is a superb, quite straightforward (for Hammill) rock song - apart from the acapella break near the end.

"Again" is a gorgeous love song, sensing a broken heart and lost a relationship its another simple song but so effectively done it twists your insides and plucks at your sinews and heart strings.

"Faint Heart and the Sermon" - my personal highlight of this album, starts with an almost medieval melody and gently builds sounds of an early (squelchy?) synth sound, over an achingly beautiful melody, no idea what the songs about, but who cares?

"The Comet, The Course, The Tail" - Hammill's ability to create anger in a seemingly laid back acoustic song is again put to the fore here "...they say we are endowed with free will, at least it justifies our need for indecision" creates a mood for the whole song, a very strong song quite underrated in Hammill's canon I think.

"Gog/Magog" - A quite frightening couplet at times, a theme of devil worship, pervades the "gog" section the organ playing is excellent and provides a real gothic horror atmosphere to the song. The "Magog" section is mostly a sound effect-athon the vocals are all treated (at least I hope so otherwise, Peter will have been doing some damage to himself (both high pitched and low moaning) maybe you need to be in the right mood to appreciate this song as at times it can be quite annoying, but listening with headphones really adds the depth to the atmosphere.

Report this review (#71962)
Posted Wednesday, March 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars In Camera is probably the first LP ever featuring music that would later become known as "Gothic". The main piece is the scary "Gog/Magog" which is probably the craziest and most dramatic piece Hammill has ever written. The "Magog" section features noises and sound samples that add to the nightmarish atmosphere of the piece. A true "Goth" masterpiece. The other pieces are all excellent. The only problem I have is, I prefer the piano versions of a couple of these songs , which are featured on the "Peel Sessions" CD. But that's not too bad. 4 stars anyway.
Report this review (#77944)
Posted Friday, May 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars An extremely strong album and demonically great piece of art! Music just flows from mister Hammills veins. If you can tolerate Hammills theatrical voice you are in front of a joyride! Half a dozen of smaller goodies and an epic of 17 minutes. Sadly the epic "Magog" is the poorest track os the album. After some 9 minutes it goes psychedelic. Why, I must ask. It was already done by almost every band and Hammill brings nothing new to the listener here. So you get a 5 star half and a 3...1 star epic. Still the goodies are so good that I must give 4 stars because a prog fan don't want to live with out this record.
Report this review (#85409)
Posted Tuesday, August 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is possible Peter Hammill's best solo LP, and certainly deserves all five stars. Ferret and the Featherbird (3:43) Starts the LP is a quite an thoughtful manner. This may well have been an Old song but the production is stunning, starting very gently it build slowly, great track.(No More) the Sub-mariner ,the synthesizer opening on this track was a first and it works very well. This tune is a rocker but is also possible the most difficult to get inside, worth a few spins to learn it structure, very prog, but prog at its best. apeworm (4:20) Similar to the last track heavy a good cut but the best is still to come.Again (3:44) a love song and a very fine one at that, great bass playing (Hugh ?). Faint-Heart and the Sermon (6:42) the first masterpiece on this record utter perfection a really great lyric and a great tune, possible the production sounds a little cluttered but its a corking tune. The Comet, the Course, the Tail (6:00) Amazing this sound is again rather old , but he has worked it to perfection starting quitly and building to a very powerful rocker and again a great lyric.Gog Magog (In Bromine Chambers) (17:21) (gog) this is VDGG isn't it ? This track is so heavy it will crack your skull open and smash your brains to pulp< once the insanity dies down we are left with a rather strange and very avant Gard ending (magog in Bromine chambers) many people would not be able to get away with such a long seemingly unstructured sound but it works even though a lot of the sounds a really simple (a ruler on the edge of a table ) this track has loads of character. That is wear the original LP ends. The Extras presented on this re-issue are with the exception of squid/octopus, the best tracks added to the re-issues. Recorded for the John Peel show, we are given Three piano and voice versions of P.H's songs. I recorded this set when it first aired but sadly my old cassettes wore out years ago, so I was utterly delighted to find these three excellent version tacked on to the end of this LP. All Three are excellent and boost this record right up to Five stars. The production is again a little different but not in bad way in fact this is a well engineered set and the Cd sounds brilliant. BUY !!
Report this review (#95092)
Posted Thursday, October 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Bought this one shortly after obtaining THE SILENT CORNER... as I loved that one so much (see my review) Whilst this is not a bad album by any means I was slighlty dissapointed. Have been debating giving this a 4 star, but reckon 3.5 is more fitting!

Some interesting tracks on the album. They certainly contain the dark side the is PH's trademark, however I find them a bit stark in places. Could not really recommend any stand-out tracks and they all seem to lack a bit of direction and focus. Those wanting the more experimental side of PH's career would however really enjoy this record. The final track for example has an incredibly weird time signature followed by an even weirder ambient section featuring pulsating synth sounds and distorted moans. It's things like this that do keep the LP interesting.

Looking at other reviews I'm sure a few may not agree with me - some indeed think this is the best thing that he has done. Either way, still worth investigating.

Report this review (#114676)
Posted Friday, March 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I remember when I first listened to this LP: I felt a sort of estrangement similar to the effect of Eraserhead, a black & white film by David Lynch. Not that this is even nearly as distubing, except perhaps 'Gog/Magog'. You know what I mean, the unsureness whether I like it or not. Pretty soon I knew I enjoy it a lot. If Silent Corner (1974) is the best Hammill album, this one before it comes as the second best. And if you want your PH solo work not very far from VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR, these are MUST.

Synths played by David Hentschel, better known as a producer (Genesis, Renaissance)? That's new information to me, interesting! I like them especially on 'Ferret...' and 'Faint- Heart...' where they help to create that strange soundscape. What an excellent additional colour to the mostly acoustic sound. 'Faint-Heart' has also a VDGG-like organ and is a highlight of the album to me. Another highlight is 'The Comet, the Course, the Tail', a dark and moody song with gorgeous lyrics. The lyrics, it must be said, are fantastic on the whole album.

As I already hinted, this album has Hammill pushing his musical borders into an eerie strangeness in the latter part of the ending track. 'Gog' is in itself a disturbing shaman song, and 'Magog' goes far into the strange world of "musique concrete" or whatever one calls it. It has a brief passage with lyrics, sung in ghostly manipulated vocals, and if you listen to it in the dark, it surely makes you shiver. No, this is not an album to play to a total newcomer of prog/art rock, but a (near) masterpiece for the connoisseurs.

Report this review (#126815)
Posted Tuesday, June 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Time to review some more PH albums, this is toghter with Chameleon in the shadow of the night my favorite of his solo albums so far, this one is much darker and angrier probobly his darkest and most angry album he ever made. Thats why i like it so much i gues, its very good to put on if your angry or frustrated about something it will take the anger out of you very quickly, someting els i always liked with Hammill and one of the reasons he is my favorite prog rock hero/idol is the ability he have to always make me feel connected too him it feels liek he speaks and write about my life and how i feel, i feel i can realy identify with him, hes yust like me hes been goin trough the same thing as me. I think you know what i mean we all have our idols that makes us feel that way and PH is mine and thats what makes him special and my personal favorite. this album for me is the best PH solo albums i love all the other ones too but this is his masterpice, he even write in the linernotes in the new 2005 remastered edition that his brother was sick and near death when he recorded the album so he tryed to make it extra good and hoped that the energy and giving it all he got whuld somehow make the brother beter. And this realy show he gives the album 100% and it pays of, a Masterpice of dark prog . 5 stars.
Report this review (#161622)
Posted Tuesday, February 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars A major change in the line-up for this fourth solo album (or is it the first one?).

The great Jackson is absent (although I would swear to hear some sax in here). But there is another surprise here: one of the founding VDGG member Judge Smith is featured on percussion and backing vocals on "Magog". As I already have told you, these Hammill works are closely linked to the band (past, present or future)...

It is obvious again that one could have get another very good VDGG album while listening to "In Camera". Although it starts in a more personal way with "Ferret" (already written in 1969 and which should have fit on "Aerosol") , the next couple of songs "Sub Mariner" and "Tapeworm" are so deeply rooted into the VDGG dark atmosphere that they almost belong to their repertoire. Two great tracks by all means of which the latter was written well before these recording sessions (1971).

But there are some Hammill oriented songs as well. On the soft side ("Again"); maybe to give the time to breathe in-between some more weird and obscure numbers.

I am also deeply impressed with the sensible "Faint-Heart & The Sermon". This album is very much "religion" oriented. As if Peter had something to be forgiven for. Anyway, I am not at all into religion and this aspect is not really relevant to me. Being a Hammill concern or not. The music is good, and this is what is important.

After an average Comet etc., a very much contraversial song. Or half of it. While Gog definitely belongs to the good songs from his repertoire with truly contagious vocals, Magog is another affair. Since I started my day to post my review for the reunion album Present and talked about my feelings about the second CD of this set, I can compare this to the second part of Gog, Magob which starts after almost eight minutes of another great performance.

The next nine minutes are fully experimental and honestly not very interesting. Here is what Peter told about this part:

I stuck Paul and Judge in the bathroom and fed them prepared and not-so-prepared tracks. Two passes of tape, I think...and then a lot of work. It didn't seem that odd to me to stick concrete stuff like this together with, say, Ferret. The rules are the same: tension and release. Use of accident, captured on tape. The sproing (for want of a better term) sound which occurs at the end (and is the release of tension) was, for instance, a once and once only effect of hitting on the button of the bass compressor. As if you needed to know that. Such accidents are strewn all over these recordings and contribute, I think, both to their charm and to their other-worldly menace.

They don't make 'em like this any more. Actually, they didn't at the time. Then, you were a serious concrete artist, or a sensitive singer-songwriter, or an all-out rocker, or a Progmeister, or whatever. Weren't you? As now...aren't you? Get in your cage or box!

I begged, I beg, to differ. And you definitely did.

Still, due to these experimental sounds, I downgrade this album to three stars.

Fair to say that some kind of future for me started here. Future, interrupted.

Report this review (#169848)
Posted Sunday, May 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Really nice album with cool lyrics and interesting work with the keys and synths. Still an extension of the work developed by VDGG, with all its virtues combined(with the absence of Jaxon's sax, which doesn't compromise the album), In Camera shows Hammill at his peak in terms of solo work. Hammill is pretty inspired(as he were on the previous three albums) and this time he could reach some new levels that would lead him to Nadir. Every single track has its value but Magog is pure rubbish, it can be skipped with no remorse(if only it ended a few minutes earlier...). One of the best options to get familiar with PH's solo career and with vocal/lyrical progressive rock in general.
Report this review (#171213)
Posted Friday, May 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
TGM: Orb
5 stars Peter Hammill's solo career takes a new twist with every album, and I've yet to hear anything of a standard which isn't at least good. However, for the more general progressive rock fans, the gold is his 73-4 output, three absolute masterpieces. In Camera is certainly the most diverse of these, with everything from idiosyncratic ballads to the hellish progressive rock masterpieces of Gog and (No More) The Submariner to a piece of daring musique concrete, all complemented with some of the finest lyrics out there. While a general description doesn't do it justice, the big developments from the previous album come in the density of synthesizer and guitar overdubs, representing, for the first time, an entire album of really full and fleshed out solo compositions from Hammill, and his ever-present sense of melody is out in force.

The range of material and its new depth and complexity, however, isn't the only thing to admire. Every piece here is effortlessly experimental, and simply doesn't really relate to anything else, and they come together to produce an album that, if a little disorienting, is nonetheless surprisingly cohesive mainly because of this attitude. Lastly, and it needs to be mentioned, Hammill's voice is  really at its peak in this sort of general time frame, and here every vocal (well, except Magog, but that's completely something else) is both dazzingly beautiful and intelligently thought out, particularly (No More) The Submariner comes off as one of his best. So, essentially essential: maybe the album to try if you want a real Peter Hammill solo album that isn't singer-songwriter based or, largely, in the style of Van Der Graaf Generator (though, to be fair, Guy Evans has the performance of his career on this one). And, in addition to all the experimental, intellectual and diversity-based respect this one gets from me, it's also simply a great album without one fragile song.

The curious and affectionate Ferret And Featherbird emerges from a slowly converging mesh of acoustic and twelve-string guitars and a tenderly wandering piano, while the tender electric thrums off some inquisitive calls. The hauntingly beautiful two-part vocal, with its expansive and yet very immediate lines, tells the story of two lovers becoming parted and then reconciled by the distance between them, to the picaresque backdrop or idea of these two playful, affectionate creatures  discovering about themselves through their tentative interactions with the other. A very sweet-natured and disarming piece, as charming as it is accomplished. For the sake of completeness, probably worth mentioning this one was originally one of the highlights of VDGG's The Aerosol Grey Machine, but the reworking here is very different and, also somewhat better.

(No More) The Submariner is completely different. No more charm, not even an effort to bring the listener on side, just a man singing his soul out, tearing mockingly into his childhood dreams and his current existence, backed by tearing, menacing synth lines, which swirl headily around with every change of mood, and incisive bass and piano parts rumbling beneath this near-primordial synthesised void. The stern confidence in the composition and the performance is reflected by Hammill's vocal control, he is immediately comfortable with both the superbly produced watery effect on his voice and his natural vocals, and filling these up with idyllic choral overdubs. No less solid is his control of the mood, he can put uncertainty into as little as a single word ('fireglow') even with that menacing effect on his voice, and the darker range of moods, fear, resentment, mockery and self-pity, are interspersed with moments of hope, of regret and introspection, and the slowly ascending choral section is strikingly well-arranged, with its shimmering mist of voices reflecting the internal voices of youth driving onto the largely concealed personality of adulthood. Rightly regarded as one of Hammill's finest hours, and a seminal progressive rock track, both for what it was pioneering and its overwhelming quality.

The thundering rocker, Tapeworm, rollicks magnificently with the elephantine Guy Evans throwing in overspilling fills to the thumping piano riff and some whirling, at­-the-man guitar and bass. An acapella-styled break in the middle features some of the distinctly musical humour Hammill was capable of in the midst of all that wordiness, and also how sophisticated his compositions were becoming.  I mean, this break, the fills, the number of different guitar ideas and the cohesion of the whole piece... it's a four and a half minute piece that feels like a ten minute one (only at the time of writing have I taken a look at the running lengths - I swear I thought this piece was 7 or 8 minutes long) - really, really rich content, and despite the slightly self-parodic (though certainly meaningful) lyrics, the lines Hammill comes up with here are absolutely astounding and the rhyme scheme is equally madly inspired, 'Feed me honey and watch me rise, to the bait lying on your knife/If you let me I can hypnotise your life!' Took me a while to really appreciate just how good this one is, but now, I think it's a classic.

Again, later reworked by the K Group for a superb group number, is a somewhat 'simple' ballad, based around a simple, mournful acoustic or electro-acoustic, empowered with a subtle reverb, and supplemented by a mournful bass part and a crisp, almost Elisabethan (in feel) piano part, albeit with some very unconventional and understated composition in the mid-section. Hammill's vocal again shines, rich, creative, fluent and positively gorgeous, and his lyrics are equally touching and, while they never lose touch with their basic emotional idea, this is lost love song which creates clichés rather than using them, and without a wasted word, 'I see your picture, as though it were a mirror, but there's no part of you outside the frame'. And, what's more, it features a menacing electronic conclusion, with the sort of feel of wiping out memories - maybe tearing them out. Pretty unique, non?

Faint-heart and the Sermon is an interesting one. I have to admit, at first listen, I didn't like it all too much, I didn't understand what it was trying to achieve, and it seemed almost out of place (more like an archetypal prog-rock song) on an album of such obviously individual pieces. However, now I get what he's doing, it's just as amazing as the rest of album's songs. First off, that synthesised cello, or bass pretending to be cello is pretty astoundingly neat, and the rest of the largely synthesised instrumentation is very well thought out and interesting. Second, the vocal tracking-the-instruments, the overwhelming, overspilling lines and shimmering mellotron crests are again in the psychology-reflects-music style which Van Der Graaf Generator would later become even more sophisticated in pulling off, the feeling of being trapped in a wave of religious euphoria and yet not quite agreeing with or understanding it, of replying in one's own voice to this universal voice. And besides, everyone loves the mellotron. Well, except Harry, but everyone loves the mellotron. Yes, I've completely changed my view on this one, and though it's probably still my least favourite number on the album, it's very memorable, the vocal lines and vocals are great, the instrumentation is very interesting and it's still something I really look forwards to whenever the album goes in for a listen.

Now, here's something you don't see a lot of in prog. A guitar quartet (bass, acoustic, twelve-string, electric). The Comet, The Course, The Tail supplements this rather unusual set of instrumentation with a suitably intelligent and interesting philosophical metaphor. Again, there are some masterful vocal self-harmonies, which do nothing to obscure the basic strength of the individual vocals - exploring both Hammill's gorgeous clean vocals and his more eclectic stylings. The melodies are extremely memorable, and the thick bass part, admittedly somewhat styled on Modern from his previous album, is particularly satisfying. A very hard one to pin down, with the tails of the various parts weaving together and floating apart effortlessly, and, though not on the original vinyl, I guess, its somewhat self-propelled, but nonetheless dejected conclusion offers a rather interesting starting point for the visceral Gog.

Gog is not just dark, it is terrifying. The breathing, suffocating menace of the harmonium, Guy Evans' tribal, savage, untraceable drumming, thundering cymbals, primal rhythms and unstable crescendos, Hammill's spiteful, arrogant and hateful vocal, filled with disdain, mockery and violence spitting out the most hideously, overwhelmingly single-minded set of words - the scripture-like statements and spitting phrases, 'my soul is cast in crystal but unrevealed beneath the knife, all wells are dry, all bread is masked in fungus, and now disease is rife - WILL YOU NOT RUN FROM THESE and LOVE [b]ME[/b] FOR ONE MORE LIFE' in a stream of increasingly irregular and vicious vocal phrases. The instrumental break gives no relief, plunging the listener even further into this place of fire and all-surrounding harmonium and the humming chaos of the bass. And out of the end of this corridor of flame, this first ring of agony, is only desolation, emptiness and suffering. Magog is almost empty, excepting the demented chants and the scurrying fear of various percussion lines and a tortured cello, leading off one after the other into a distant nothingness, occasionally mingling and coalescing and then fading back into the background of scattered ash. No uplifting melody, not even a sign of hope, nothing except the bleak collection of fear, and concealed behind that, more fear. Truly unique.

The last two 'numbers', comprising about half the album, obviously hit very hard emotionally¸ and maybe in a way some people won't enjoy/appreciate. Despite this almost physical impact, the intellectual impression of those two pieces isn't lessened, the very idea of a God who simply doesn't care, the ever-so-precise descent into increasingly fluid and deliberately unrestrained vocal lines is something to behold, and, simply put, it doesn't sound like anything else out there. The lyric, here, is resistant to dissection and yet each individual phrase adds something, and builds on the impression of singularity, disdain and universality - a god that doesn't provide security, a god that doesn't care about your attitude to him, a god without anything except a bemused disdain for humankind. The connections between the various verses and lines are so many as to make them inseparable, and the dense fog of imagery never hinders the sense of movement, of tense, clustering fear. One of the most accomplished lyrics of all time - I wish I could write like this.

And the bonus material, if anything, is even better. Three live (BBC session) takes of (No More) The Submariner, The Emperor In His War Room and The Faint Heart And The Sermon, all produced very strongly and bringing out the real strengths of those songs, as well as showing that, even without the studio jiggery-pokery, Hammill could still pull off or effectively word around some of those out-there effects covering his ever-amazing voice.

Yes, there's no way I can give this one less than a five star rating, it resonates, it goes through to the soul, and it's fervently daring at a time when the creative verve of a lot of the main progressive rock acts was beginning to dry up. Not only a five star album, but a perfect 15/15 for me (my reasoning was: can I think of half a dozen albums I clearly prefer to this one? Nope. Can I pick out a weak track? Nope. Does the album work well as a whole? Yes. Is it something unique? Yes. That's a sneak peek into the criteria.)

Rating: 15/15, absolute masterpiece, possibly best by artist and an obvious 5 stars. Favourite Track: Gog, by a hair

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Posted Monday, May 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
The Sleepwalker
5 stars Peter Hammill's fourth solo album, In Camera, is a pretty big change from his previous album, The Silent Corner and The Empty Stage. Luckily, the change is a positive one. Peter has said that creating an album was an educational experience to him, which means Peter learned new things every release. In Camera features a richer production than its predecessors and because of that has a much warmer overall feel.

The album, just like VDGG's material and Peter's previous release, is a very experimental one. For example the loud synths on (No More) The Submarine sound very bombastic and threatening. The experimenting is more controlled than it was on the previous solo release though, and that makes this album easier to listen and perhaps more pleasant to listen. The album also knows many different styles of music. Peter takes us from the stunning and emotional "Faint-heart And the Sermon" to the heavy rocker "Tapeworm" and the guitar quartet "The Comet, The Course, the Tail". Many of these songs are very interesting and really good, some even surpassing some Van Der Graaf classics.

The big climax of the album, is the ominous suite "Gog Magog (In Bromine Chambers)". "Gog" starts with haunting harmonium and when Hammill's fierce vocals make their entry, it quickly becomes one of the most frightening and striking pieces of music I've ever heard. The lyrics also deserve to be mentioned. Hammill is a fantastic lyricist, and the lyrics of "Gog" are without a doubt among his best, mentioning a god that doesn't really care. After the stunning power of "Gog", the second part starts. "Magog (In Bromine Chambers)" is roughly said a soundscape of eery and experimental noises, basically a piece of musique concrete by Peter Hammill. It is very experimental and intense, and because of that interesting but not very easy to listen. "Magog" is outstanding in its own way, though many might not enjoy its heavy experimentation and focus on an atmosphere that the lyrics suggest.

In Camera contains some of Hammill's finest solo moments and some of the songs here really surpass VDGG's best material. The beauty and experimantalism is really balanced, which makes the album very pleasant, diverse, and never really uninteresting. In Camera is a masterpiece of progressive rock if you ask me. I would recommend it to anyone who likes Van Der Graaf Generator or Peter Hammill solo.

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Posted Tuesday, September 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars In My Youth ... I Played Prog Rock!

Yes, not all of us had the pleasure of an untroubled youth spent with our favourite toys. Some of us had a merciless older brother that force-fed us on progressive rock from the tender age of 10. Well I'm deceiving you a bit; it wasn't 'force-feeding'. I was entirely fascinated and drank lavishly.

However, Hammill wasn't in my brothers collection, so Van Der Graaf would be the first band I 'discovered' myself as soon as I was old enough to be spending afternoons in libraries and second-hand stores. This album has been with me since I was 16 or something. Needless to say it was defining for my basic taste: progressive rock, but with a dark and harsh angle in it. No wonder I moved on to post-punk and metal later on.

In Camera continued the style and sound of the Silent Corner but has never convinced me equally. It is mostly brilliant but has moments that are too over the top and far-fetched. "Ferret and Featherbird" is a very experimental track that always intrigued me and "The Comet, the Course, the Tail" and "Faint-Heart and the Sermon" are longstanding favourites. The remainder of the tracks goes from excellent to slightly annoying: "Tapeworm" never gelled with me and I don't think I've listened more then thrice beyond the 7 minute mark of "Gog Magog"

With his next album, Hammill would come back with an entirely stripped down version of his style. He had taken his pretentious and theatrical stand as far as he could with In Camera. Also on his solo albums of the late 70's, the experimental and keyboard driven songs were much more focussed and comprehensive.

Still this is an essential album for me and you also shouldn't miss the excellent peel sessions that have been added to the 2006 remaster.

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Posted Saturday, November 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars After really liking The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage I was eager to hear the concluding part of the Peter Hammill trilogy!

I'm happy to announce that In Camera is another very strong Hammill release! Consistency-wise I actually consider this album to be the strongest in the trilogy although The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage has much higher tops in comparison I actually think that they slightly diminish the overall quality of that album. In Camera on the other hand keeps its highlights almost on the same level as the rest of the material and to be honest I've revisited this release a lot more times than the other two albums in the trilogy.

The only real flaw that I can think of is that Gog Magog can get a bit annoying upon repeated listens, although the Gog-part is really strong. Faint-Heart And The Sermon contains some of Peter Hammill's most accessible and strongest lyrics so if you're new to his work the this is probably the best album to start with!

***** star songs: (No More) The Sub-Mariner (5:47) Faint-Heart And The Sermon (6:42)

**** star songs: Ferret And The Featherbird (3:43) Tapeworm (4:20) Again (3:44) The Comet, The Course, The Tail (6:00) Gog Magog (In Bromine Chambers) (17:21)

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Posted Friday, January 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars Like Hammill's two previous solo albums ("Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night" & "The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage") "In Camera" is a dark, emotional, experimental and at times insane journey that is difficult to digest. No one writes lyrics like Hammill and no one can sing with such passion and emotion either. Yet for all the admiration and praise for these three consecutive records there are those who will look at these albums like they would a train wreck. Amazing and unforgettable yes, but do I really want to experience that again ? For me the answer is yes, just not that often. These are special albums to say the least.

"Ferret And The Featherbird" is an almost awkward start as it never seems to get off the ground. Intricate sounds to open and vocals come in after a minute. Not the most melodic tune that's for sure. "(No More) The Sub-Mariner" builds with keyboards as bass and reserved vocals join in. The vocals do get passionate at times. I like the synths on this one. "Tapeworm" is really the first song to have some energy. Piano to open and a full sound kicks in quickly. Vocals follow. A calm before 2 1/2 minutes with vocal melodies. It kicks back in. I like the guitar. Great song. "Again" is mainly reserved vocals, acoustic guitar and bass.

"Faint-Heart And The Sermon" and the next two tracks are really outstanding. This is so moving just listening to Hammill sing. Keyboards, cello-like sounds, orchestral sounds all add to the atmosphere here. Amazing tune. "The Comet, The Course, The Tail" is laid back with almost spoken vocals and acoustic guitar. Bass joins in as the sound gets fuller. Some passion 3 1/2 minutes in to the end. "Gog Magog (In Bromine Chambers)" is the almost 17 1/2 minute closer. Fasten your seat belts people. Powerful organ as the vocals come in. Drums come to the fore after 2 minutes as Hammill spits out the lyrics. The first 8 minutes of this tune are insane. Then the last half is filled with experimental sounds and vocal expressions as it drifts into another dimension.

It will take me years to fully grasp these three albums, if indeed it even happens. This is the work of an artist.

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Posted Tuesday, February 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars What a pleasingly cryptic little album. Hammill never feared venturing into dark, suppressed parts of the soul, but here he actually manages to balance out that emotionally confrontational side with a more elegant, fragile and searching one, rendering this an unusually diverse and nuanced work. As an added bonus, inner demons and harsh, behemoth-like instrumental attack becomes all the more interesting and striking alongside the nimble and subdued.

Regardless of the diversity here, In Camera comes off as a neatly cohesive album, since Hammill's personality is way too strong to wipe out his signature from the seven songs here.

Ferret and Featherbird immediately piques your curiosity with spindly, discreetly sprawling guitar and piano subtleties that soon form a more orderly, touching and unusually heartfelt Hammill outing, guaranteed to take some listeners by surprise. It forms the first example of a for me unfamiliar, richer and more romantic side of the musician. A continuation of this development can be found in several of the songs here. Never as sweet, but definitely with that increased interest in texture, layering and melody that truly serve as to underline the power and emotional impact he has already mastered. Grandiose swelling keyboards, a delicate touch of organ or piano, naked, frank or soothing acoustic guitars - all utilised in a tasteful, somewhat underwhelming and careful way that just touches you deeply. It feels less unrefined and unfiltered, a bit more mature and adorned. Whether that's a good thing or not is entirely up to the individual listener.

Naturally, the man has got some old cards up his sleeve as well. (No More) The Sub Mariner, Tapeworm and the immense Gog Magog (In Bromine Chambers); brooding, hard-hitting maelstroms of buzzing, cold synthesiser and frustration in the first one, a more steadily Van der Graaf Generator-styled idiosyncratic rock drive in the second.

But Gog Magog - oh, the chills, the chills! A Gothic, Satanic ritual in a godforsaken dungeon under a city in decay, but you know...musically. A delightful blend of good old horror and violence with a cold urban gleam of fear and disillusion that blows everything else that's dark and putrid out of the water. Chaotic, towering and totally and utterly unleashed. What a tour-de-force! Powerful, spasmic drumming, demonic organ and harmonium and Hammill spitting out the phrases with scorn and anger. The change from this to the composition's second part, the harrowing Magog, is as natural as it is dramatic. What follows is a near-industrial droning noise with pitch black streaks of processed sinister vocals and percussive-sounding machinery and drops of cold water. A sub-conscious emotional sewage plant you'd gladly leave forgotten for all eternity, but it manipulatively just draws you in with its twisted imagery of desolation and death. Brr.

Pleasingly diverse, pleasingly profound, pleasingly challenging, pleasingly addictive. This is what I've been looking for in Van Der Graaf Generator's music for so long, but it's on In Camera that I finally feel connected, drawn in and mangled by all the ingredients of the sounds. If an album emotionally drains you and leaves you wanting more, you know it's quality material.

Damn near masterpiece...

...but 4 stars for now.


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Posted Tuesday, March 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Peter Hammill - In Camara (1974)

Right before Van Der Graaf Generator's second peak moment Peter Hammill recorded 'In Camara' and 'The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage', much in the same artistic spirit. Some of the ingredients are much the same; Peter Hammill's mad psychedelic vocals with confrontational content and Guy Evans' impressive drums. Different from VdGG's classics is the use of more synthesizers and symphonic equipotent and the absence of the dominant organ sound. Furthermore there's no wind-section.

In Camara has two faces. Some songs on side one feature some intimate and tame atmospheres with a gentle symphonic sound. Hammill is even willing to portrait himself as a good harmonic vocalist in these sections. Luckily for the fans of the heavy psychedelic - almost sadomasochistic - painful moments of musical and lyrical bombast the main ingredient of the album is Hammill's dark face. On side one the music is growing in unrest over the course of the first songs and we don't have to wait for more then seven minutes to hear the first desperate shouts of Hammill. Side two is however way more acid-like with the unpleasant but impressive The Comet, the Course, the Tail with it's heavy vocals. With the seventeen minute long 'Gog Magog' Peter Hammill proves to be the main man behind the Pawn Hearts formula. In this epic with an almost unbelievable aggressive and psychedelic vocal section it becomes apparent that fans of Pawn Hearts shouldn't be worried that it's the only music of it's sort. After the vocal sections the epic evolves into a dark sound-scape that runs for over seven minutes I think. It is this nightmare that is chosen to be the final impression of the album, it turns out to be the ending section of this already troubled work. The sounds used are however impressive and the atmospheres distinctive.

Conclusion. Let it be clear by now that this is not the music most symphonic prog listeners would be comfortable with whilst listening to it. This is album is a partly symphonic and for the bigger part acid/psychedelic. The immense firing power of Hammill and group is the main reason the music is so attractive for those who can get into it. It's great music because it's unlikable and totally unsuited for a wider audience, whilst still being innovative, honest and unique. Very progressive one might add. Three and a halve stars, but it might grow on me. Recommended only to fans of VdGG, Peter Hammill and listeners of avant-garde and brutal metal (they might just like this).

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Posted Thursday, May 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Intense concrete prog music this is! And the last of PH's classic trilogy.

The Silent Corner Of An Empty Stage presented an upgrade over Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night's modus operandi and overall atmosphere, and yet, it was lacking a bit of edge and raw stuff as well as some maturation in the songwritting. In these, In Camera delivers, it is the last step in Hammill's growth as a singer-songwriter and a very important chapter in his future as producer of his own records, and that is enough to make it surpass his previous efforts.

However, In Camera has problems that none of his albums had to this point, which is something called uneffective musique-concrete: sure musique-concrete can be as fun to listen to as anything else crafted with care by experient hands, but this is not the case here, and I'm talking about "Magog", where poor musique-concrete drags on for too long without much happening at all, and this piece only prevents the record from ranking better than it's predecessors.

But of course, you can't take points from the good stuff because when the bad stuff is so little, and so, In Camera really has an impressive collection of loosely-arranged tunes, a bit like Robert Wyatt's Rock Bottom: "Ferret And Featherbird" is confuse in the first seconds as it slowly puts itself in place and Hammill's voice takes over; "No More (The Submariner)" paves the way for the synth overdubs of this album and The Future Now, here, majestic overdubbed riffs of ARP 2600 run beneath the surface in bubbles of ideas while the lyrics focus on the theme of identity and freedom in a passionate and angry vocal performance; "Tapeworm" is an unconvincing rocker with lyrics too convoluted to make it a classic even if the main riff is powerful, that said, you haven't lived if you never heard it's acapella bridge; the gorgeous ballad "Again" may sound too sappy for some people, but that is until the angular backwards guitar arrives to close it; "Faint-Heart And The Sermon" was performed by VdGG on a regular basis between 1975-76 where it became a beautiful dark-prog number, here, however, it is grandiouser but less heavy, at least that's what the addition of synths and mellotron and absence of sax and organ point at; the melodies underlining "The Comet, The Course, The Tail" played by bass, 6-string and 12-string are to kill for, and the song itself is one of Hammill's best, no wonder he almost always performs it live; "Gog" is a Van der Graaf Generator-sounding piece that benefits from the use of harmonium and the drumming of Guy Evans, the pity is that after 7 intense minutes, it slowly degenerates into the tedious "Magog", that said, the ring modulated screams of Chris Judge Smith conjure the idea of hell like nothing else.

After the avant-garde fest of In Camera, who could imagine that the lurking spirit of Rikki Nadir was ready to appear to deliver a punk-ish record? And even if his record is better than almost anything else from that dreaded time, it's nothing to really match to previous works.

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Posted Sunday, May 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars In Camera is the third album of what I think of as Peter Hammill's "avant-prog singer- songwriter trilogy" that issued in the wake of Pawn Hearts. I use the term "singer-songwriter" because on each of the three albums there are many songs on which Hammill handles almost all the instrumentation, which is often quite sparse, with only a few tracks on which other musicians make a significant contribution.

That is especially the case for In Camera, on which most of the basic tracks were recorded by Hammill at his home studio and then were manipulated and had overdubs added. Guy Evans from VdGG appears on a couple of tracks, and Gog additionally features VdGG co-founder Chris Judge-Smith, but otherwise the album is almost all Hammill - which will surprise many listeners, since the sound he is able to attain by himself rivals his own ex-band in full flow.

The result of this experimental approach consists of dark, murky and Gothic soundscapes which run the gamut from intimate and personal to chilling and metaphysical, the concluding Magog being an eerie musique concrete piece. The most experimental and ambitious of the the three albums I've identified as being part of this trilogy, In Camera takes the fragile confessionals and existential angst of the previous two releases to its ultimate and shocking conclusion. A daunting but utterly essential work which will grow and grow on you.

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Posted Thursday, September 8, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Imagine my wonder as a sixteen year old walking into a record store in the middle of Nebraska and finding this fantastic gem of an album. I had never heard it before, yet I was a fan of Peter Hammill's work from hearing The Silent Corner and various other works of his from his K group, but none of that prepared me for this dark progressive masterpiece.

The album kicks off with the very loose, calming "The Ferret and the Featherbird", a reworking of an earlier Van der Graaf piece, its a short little piece that consists of calming ethereal synthesizer work, acoustic guitars, and lovely vocals. This then leads into the next track, a dark, doom laden synthesizer dominated dirge with deep, thought provoking lyrics involving childhood and the loss of innocence and imagination as one grows up. Another excellent track. Then comes "Tapeworm" a rather rocking number with a fascinating a Capella part in the middle in alternating 9/8 8/8 time. Then comes "Again" which almost sounds to me like Peter Hammill's version of "Still You Turn Me On" From BSS, but once again, a very moving synthesizer laden acoustic guitar ballad. Then comes one of my favorite PH pieces "The Faint Heart and the Sermon", an epic piece based around synthesizers and a piano, and this is truly one where the synthesizer really shines, giving the piece an almost futuristic orchestral feel. There are even some parts where the synthesizers sound like a brass section. There is also a rather loose ethereal middle section, which reminds me of the noise between songs you find in Frances the Mute by TMV, albeit a lot shorter. The next track, "The Comet, the Course, the Tail" is another guitar based ballad, yet manages to be just as powerful and moving as the other ballads on the album.

Now comes the fun part of the album. Kicking off with one hell of a menacing harmonium chord progression, we get one of Peter Hammill's darkest offerings in his entire career. "Gog", the first part in one of the most interesting epics in prog history, consists of a menacing harmonium, throbbing bass line, and Guy Evans' rather jazzy percussion work, which works incredibly well in context with the piece. After about 8 minutes of this hellish ecstasy, a droning synthesizer sound leads you into the world of "Magog", the second part of the epic. Magog is certainly not for the faint hearted (no pun intended) for it is pure sonic experimentation. There are no verses, choruses, any of that stuff, nothing but a pure hellish soundscape with chanting thrown here and there, and it is absolutely fantastic. The aura this piece gives off is incredibly haunting and hellish, it belongs right in a horror movie. Peter Hammill takes a very experimental and intelligent approach to songwriting, and I believe this is his greatest accomplishment, it manages to be incredibly experimental while totally enjoyable at the same time. If you are looking for an adventurous, dark, and totally unique progressive listening experience, give this album a whirl. I can't give it any less than five stars.

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Posted Tuesday, December 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Peter Hammill's "In Camera" is sandwiched between two classic albums, "The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage" and "Nadir's Big Chance" and as a result often gets overlooked by many reviewers. It still captures the dark intriguing world of the Van der Graaf Generator years but retains a spirit of its own. Hammill is excellent on vocals and piano as always, but he has a more restrained style for many of the songs, at least not as complex as his previous material. Guy Evans is still present on drums, but Jaxon and Banton are absent thus removing the similarity to VDGG material. The real difference here is the synthesizer work of David Hentschel generating a decidedly different sound for Hammill, especially on tracks such as 'Ferret and the Featherbird'. Hammill is still able to blaze away with angry rockers such as on '(No More) the Sub-mariner' or 'Tapeworm' and croon soft with acoustics on melancholy ballads such as 'Again'. The guitar quartet on 'The Comet, the Course, the Tail' is unique also to Hammill's solo career.

The songs are not as immediately arresting as previous albums and not as memorable. However there are still some great compositions as Hammill returns to themes of contemplative existentialism on 'Faint-Heart and the Sermon'. Highlights of this song lyrically speaking include the poetic thought provoking; "My lungs suck useless air, like paraplegic dancers in formation team, my understanding sees high bound in its movements, contemplating answers that could break my bonds, to be half wrong would be in me improvement but my comprehensive faculties are impaired, and it seems absurd but now all I've learned are empty words are worthless?" The regal symphonic keyboard strings and odd time sigs on this are similar to the masterpiece album previous.

Hammill is at his best when let loose on manic apocalyptical epics such as the magnum opus of the album, 'Gog Magog (In Bromine Chambers)'. This last piece clocks over 17 minutes and features grand guignol cathedral organ and gothic mayhem. Many critics mention the ending of the track which is wildly experimental and not for the faint hearted.

The last half of the song is musique concrete with harrowing blasts of frenetic dissonance, thunder claps of percussion. The track is certainly as weird as Hammill gets and is mainly avant-garde experimentation for the sake of it and perhaps could have done with some trimming. However it is a departure from the rest of the material on the album and stands out as a conversation piece in the same vein as The Beatles 'Revolution 9'. Hammill manipulates various snippets of audio tape to create a sound collage of dark and disturbing nightmares. It is a fascinating montage of effects and creates a hellish disturbia similar to the work of Scott Walker or vintage Can. It is perhaps as dark as the artist gets and it lasts for over 7 minutes. It is hard to consume after an initial listen but it ends the album off nicely that was rather subdued to this point. Hammill once again demonstrates his power as an artist who refuses to be pigeon holed into any one genre style and whose creative vision is unsurpassed.

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Posted Friday, January 20, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Hammill's creative progress for another solo album begins immediately after the release of the genuine ''The silent corner and the empty stage''.He stated that with every new work he wanted to explore something different and this time he decided to work on a project more or less by himself.Around the same time his younger brother Andy fell into coma after an accident with his bicycle and Hammill put all his stress into a creative process.He performed his arrangements on guitars, bass, piano and keyboards and received help in a number of tracks by ex- and present Van der Graaf Generator's drummers Judge Smith and Guy Evans, famous prog-related graphic artist Paul Whitehead on percussion and recording engineer David Hentschel on ARP synthesizer.The album, titled ''In camera'', was released on Charisma in June 1974.

After a vocal-heavy Art/Psych Rock effort and a dark Prog Rock masterpiece, ''In camera'' finds Hammill performing somewhere inbetween these two works, it is definitely his most sinister and haunting album of his early works, filled with dark piano lines, eerie synthesizers and muddy guitars to go along with Hammill's expressive and unique vocals.With no so many comforts regarding the sessions of an album by multi-instrumentalist, this one sounds more minimalistic, instrumental naked and extremely lyrical with only a few sections executed on three or more instruments, so it moves a bit away from the very complex and dense arrangements of the previous album, still holds series of interesting, atmospheric qualities noone except Peter Hammill could offer.''In camera'' is actually led by Hammill's vocal depth and a set of different musical backgrounds, including synth lines and piano movements, lots of acoustic soundscapes and some more regular moments with drumming and an effort closer to a normal group.Consider this more of a lyrical, theatrical and mystic delivery of orchestral, folky and cinematic arrangements with a poet leading the way.An original album in its own way with a powerful contrast between vocals and music and the first few attempts by Hammill on Experimental Music as proposed on the 17-min. ''Gog Magog'', the first part of which is a Gothic-like, intense Prog Rock opus with a full keyboard sound and dominant percussion, where the second 10-min. segment is filled with sound effects and noises, definitely one of an acquired taste, still seeing Hammill doing what he stated, developing his musical horizons.

Dark Art Rock by Mr. Hammill here.Impressive album for a work practically composed and executed by one man back in 1974, slightly too minimalistic and vocal-oriented, still containing the genuine values of Van Der Graaf Generator's offerings.Recommended.

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Posted Sunday, March 15, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is by far my favorite solo album from Peter Hammill. Of the few solo albums I own by him, I found them hit or miss. For example, 1977's Over I just plain couldn't get into (I realize he was undergoing a messy divorce and had to express that). Ph7 is pretty good, though, and The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage is one of his best. In Camera follows Silent Corner, but the only VdGG member involved here is Guy Evans (OK, so was Chris Judge-Smith, but he was only a very early member of the group). Aside from Evans, is also David Hentschel for the ARP synth programming and Chris Judge-Smith (as mentioned before). Paul Whitehead is also credited, but he was totally unaware he even performed on the album because he already moved to the United States by this time, and was likely an earlier recording he made that was just lying around. Before I go any further, there's definitely a debate about what ARP synth is being used on this album. I've seen sources state ARP 2600. I have always suspect it was the ARP 2500, and here's the reason why: David Hentschel used a 2500 Elton John's "Rocket Man" and most notably "Funeral for a Friend". He programs the ARP on In Camera, Peter Hammill plays it here, and he never used any ARP on any of his other solo albums leaving me to believe it was David Hentschel's 2500. Plus it has a lot of sounds that seem too elaborate and sound effects too complex for a 2600 (I should know, I own a 2600, and I can't get it to do many of those sounds heard on In Camera). Unless there were photos taken of In Camera sessions, I can only guess. Plus the album only states "ARP synthesizer", which could mean (in 1974) Odyssey, Pro Soloist (which would hardly be those), 2600 or 2500.

It seems a couple of the songs on In Camera were Aerosol Grey Machine and Pawn Hearts leftovers, I mean to say, written during that time period, but recorded at the end of 1973/beginning of 1974. Anyways, this stuff is just as great as anything coming out of Van der Graaf Generator. "Ferret and Featherbird" is a gentle acoustic number you often hear from Hammill, this being written in 1969, so it wouldn't seem out of place on The Aerosol Grey Machine (itself intended as a Hammill solo album, but leaked out as a VdGG album). "(No More) The Sub-Mariner" is nothing short of amazing. Those ARP synth sounds are just unbelievable, and the dramatic approach Hammill gives us is truly a sight to behold! I really love that powerful pulsing synth sound that Hammill does here. "Tapeworm" rocks even more than your typical VdGG, while "Again" is a gentle acoustic number that leads to the dramatic "Faint-Heart and the Sermon". Again the ARP rears its heard, with some synth sounds that don't sound too different from "Funeral for a Friend" that leads me to think it was a 2500. It also has some cool synth effects, but I shouldn't forget the nice Mellotron passages found here. "Gog"/"Magog (In Bromine Chambers)" is truly unbelievable. Dramatic to a capital "D" with harmonium being used and his melodramatic voice. You start thinking the reason for a solo career is because some of this stuff would been too melodramatic even for VdGG standards (you can almost imagine Hugh Banton, Guy Evans, and David Jackson telling him to "Cool it down on the melodrama"). Then the album ends up with some strange sound effects that just sound plain sinister. This is truly a career highlight for Peter Hammill, as far as I'm concerned. This album is very much a classic and to me a five star rating, comes with my very highest recommendation!

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Posted Monday, October 24, 2016 | Review Permalink

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