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Peter Hammill - Thin Air CD (album) cover


Peter Hammill

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Eclectic Prog Team
2 stars Uninteresting is how I tend to regard this Peter Hammill solo album. It by no means contains terrible music, but there's almost zero variety in terms of both sound and structure. The title of the album is appropriate, in that the music consists of thin layers of instrumentation. It's a pleasant affair, but there is nothing particularly noteworthy or creative about it. I yawned my through this album.

"The Mercy" Soft keyboard, piano, and clean electric guitar serve as the foundation over which Hammill's relatively restrained voice is poured.

"Your Face on the Street" Over piano, a host of Hammills back up the dramatic vocalist. This is probably the most memorable track on the album, mainly due to the backup singing.

"Stumbled" This is a folk-like song, which maintains the sound of the previous two tracks but introduces the strumming of an acoustic guitar.

"Wrong Way Round" Disjointed electric guitars and drumming that almost sounds off makes for a noisy and somewhat directionless (but thankfully short) instrumental.

"Ghosts of Planes" Hammill begins this piece with some bizarre chanting, shakers, and eerie guitar. Overall, it's a dull and boring track, with a repetitive psychedelic riff repeated until I can stand it no longer.

"If We Must Part Like This" Slide guitar, tremolo, and a dash of bass make this a borderline country track, despite Hammill's unmistakable voice, yet it's his whining that gets on my nerves really quickly.

"Undone" More piano ensues, with some organ underneath, and for the most part, this sounds like a solo spot in a theatrical production.

"Diminished" This second longest piece is the dreariest and most forgettable work. The effects on the guitar make it sound practically out of tune, and the constant background noise makes me want to lie down.

"The Top of the World Club" Lovely piano begins the longest and last track to this sleepy album. Perhaps this is done intentionally, but the many vocal tracks laid down by Hammill do not blend well; in fact, I'd say the vocals are downright goofy.

Report this review (#227905)
Posted Wednesday, July 22, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars A true return to form - the album admirers of his late 70s, early 80s work waited to hear for well, the best of thirty years... Full of what Hammill does best: experimenting, exploring, angst lyricism, adventure, not bothering about what is expected - he sheds all his skins and reveals his bare bone. In weighty parts this album is reminiscent of 'The Future Now', 'pH7' and 'Sitting Targets', some of his most innovative work. Indeed there's little in terms of melody, constant rhythm. Instead the listerer gets ideas of what the man is about, what he is thinking, feeling at every precise moment of each recorded second. It's intense. A mood that has been lacking from Hammill's output beyond the mid eighties. It's almost as if he's been too comfortable (in a musically, and most probably exsistential sense) for too long. "I'm so scared of what's in store..." Ground Zero. Yet there's a life to be lived, however endangered it might be, a life to fulfil its meaning, whatever it may be. Sparse and complicated. Hammill at his best, again. I so dearly hope the final sound of the lid falling onto the keyboard will not be the last recording we've heard of this astonishing man...
Report this review (#228988)
Posted Wednesday, July 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
3 stars It's been almost 3 years since the last Peter Hammill solo album. This can be considered a long time since Peter has been highly prolific releasing more than 35 albums over a course of 38 years! Now that time has started to wear him down the output has been less consistent, but what about the quality?

Granted that Peter Hammill is a lyrical genius he hasn't always succeeded in transforming his words into engaging musical contexts. In my opinion this album partially falls a victim of just that. Today it is more interesting than ever to receive advice from a man who has collected a great deal of wisdom over the course of his life and who is keen on sharing it with everyone who is interested. Unfortunately many of the compositions supporting the lyrics lack the intensity and atmosphere that is embedded inside the words. There are only a few ideas that manage to manifest themselves into songs that one will want to hear again and again. The perfect example of that is the stand out track Undone where the music truly captures the power of the amazing lyrics.

Thin Air might not be a career highlight but I'm just glad that Peter is still recording new material which is something that we must not take for granted!

***** star songs: Undone (4:25)

**** star songs: The Mercy (6:21) Stumbled (4:48) The Top Of The World Club (7:03)

*** star songs: Your Face On The Street (5:21) Wrong Way Round (2:40) Ghosts Of Planes (5:23) If We Must Part Like This (4:38) Diminished (6:11)

Total rating: 3,58

Report this review (#229591)
Posted Sunday, August 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars I picked up this album because I found it cheap on ebay. It is my starting point to Peter Hammill's solo career, and I wouldn't have started here if not for the aforementioned reason. When it arrived, I looked at it with wary eyes. On the one hand, this is Peter Hammill, one of the key forces behind Van Der Graaf Generator, a band that (despite the fact I've just started exploring their career) I hugely enjoy. On the other hand, this is 30 years after the latest VDGG record I have heard, and the album art made me think of the kind of music you're likely to find in a gift shop at a tourist trap.

"The Mercy" had me changing my mind, as it was a nice track that developed interestingly, and "Your Face on the Street" was really interesting lyrically (if somewhat less so musically), so the lack of interest I was able to develop in the rest of the music was pretty disappointing.

This album reminds me of the Singer-Songwriter solo albums that I listened to a lot before I got into prog rock. The song structures on this album consist mostly of Peter singing over acoustic guitar or piano/keyboards. This is not entirely true, as there are some weirder sounds moving around underneath the main level of guitar and keyboards, but they don't quite move the music so much as give it texture. This extra texture makes the music a bit deeper than your typical Singer-Songwriter, yet somehow I just can't feel that this album is really doing anything amazing.

It does end on The Top of the World Club, which does have some really nice moments and recaps a theme from a previous track (The Ghost of Planes) in an interesting way, which gives the album a sense of cohesiveness. But as much as I would love to say that this helped redeem the album, I can't.

For a man who has released over 30 solo albums, I am sure that there must be something better in Peter's discography. For sure, the classic '70s albums (which I have not yet heard) are probably a much better place to start dipping your feet in his discography. I can't imagine that there is much in this album for people to enjoy unless they are already a fan of Peter's music, or really enjoy this type of music.

2 stars for now.

Report this review (#246337)
Posted Monday, October 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
2 stars After a series of good solo and VDGG albums, Thin Air is another venture into dreariness. There is nothing horribly bad about it, but nothing good either. Or wait, there is really something wrong with it: you can play this album as background music and it will pass you by largely unnoticed.

Now Hammill? Background music? No, that would really be the last thing you would want from a Hammill album and that is the main reason why it is such a disappointment.

Both the arrangements and vocals stay pretty much unchanged for the entire course of the album. There's nothing wrong with a song like Your Face on the Street but it is entirely indistinguishable from the one before or after it. Wrong Way Round is supposed to balance things out with an instrumental piece but it is too uninspired to accomplish anything.

If you want this review to get as dreary as the album then I would just need to continue repeating that each of the following tracks are as faceless and unobtrusive as you never had dreamed a Hammill album would be.

The concluding The Top Of The World Club is a really good song but after the monotonous 40 minutes that preceded it, it entirely loses its potential impact.

Two very Thin stars.

Report this review (#254076)
Posted Thursday, December 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

While VDGG's later career has now being going on for around five years, it hasn't really stopped Hammill's solo output, but has solidly slowed it down, since it's only his second (after Singularity)album since restarting the Generator. Not that I'm complaining at all, since Trisector easily sits in my top 10 of the 00's, but the last solo I'd heard from him (before this present one) is the brilliant Incoherence. After hearing the present thin air, it seems that one of my next goals is to get a hold of Singularity.

After an usual track (for Peter) Mercy track (harpsichord, then piano and guitar with cellos and strings), a more reflective Face In The Street signal to the listener that Peter is indeed on a strong streak of songwriting since his health problem early in the 00's decade, something that had evaded him throughout the 90's (IMHO), It seems also that he's more intent on giving the instruments more space as there is an unprecedented (AFAIK, I am far from having heard every album) instrumental on one of his album: an instrumental track: the short and controversially-titled Wrong Way Round, with plenty of electric guitars. An obviously profound album by its lyrical content, this is a solemn album where every track has its own special ambiance, all the way down to the sinister Diminished, which has The album ends on the chilling Top Of The World Club, which stands for the title track of the album, as would Ghost Of Planes. If I must name two tracks of this album, I'd choose Stumbled and Undone.

Well I certainly won't say that this yet another run-of-the-mill Hammill album, but I can eventually qualify it as one of his better albums over the last two decades, but behind Incoherence. Hammill fans won't be deceived, newcomers better look ar either VdGG or early 70's albums.

Report this review (#275704)
Posted Wednesday, March 31, 2010 | Review Permalink
The Truth
Post/Math Rock Team
5 stars This album is a grower. May that be my opening statement.

At first, I knew that this album was not a classic VDGG album (like everyone was hoping) but I still thought that there was something appealing about it. Now I see it clearly.

The inspiration this album stems off of is the theme of disapperance which is the first time I think that theme has been explored in an album. Nevertheless it makes for some of Hammill's strongest lyrics and most emotional singing since the seventies. The backing music isn't quite as prog and there is a seemingly singer-songwriter atmosphere about the album. Yet, deep in the sound somewhere, through all those lyrics of desperation and disappearance, I think I hear a vague tone of hope in Peter's voice. A strange effect is drawn over me and I go into a sort of mental state that only this album can produce.

It's a sort of odd album in some aspects but it is a masterpiece of music in my opinion. Hammill keeps up his prolific profile into the new millenium and does it extremely well. He never ceases to provoke my thoughts.

Report this review (#306619)
Posted Monday, October 25, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars 4,5 really; a majestic record, one of the best of PH in years (since Fireships, at least - was it '92? after many shaky and sub-par efforts. It is intense, creative, and I can sing some of the songs. The Mercy, Undone, The Top of the World Club are instant classics in PH disography. I hoep to see them played live. But it's the whole record that has this "special" feel, of something truly felt and accomplished. PH voice is powerful and tender; the arrangement are precious in their minimal character, and there's a great flanger guitar sound here and there, plus some intersting soundscapes. Well done PH, can't wait to hear the new VDGG
Report this review (#336016)
Posted Saturday, November 27, 2010 | Review Permalink

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