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Peter Hammill - Incoherence CD (album) cover


Peter Hammill

Eclectic Prog

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5 stars For the people who like "Pawn Hearts","A Black Box" and "Roaring Forties".Or to put it simple,people who love the more epic tracks out of the impressive Hammill oeuvre."Incoherence"is a concept-album about the shortcomings and other difficulties with language.A problem which Peter Hammill knows like no other.There is one long track here from over 40 min.Assisted by longterm collaborators like David Jackson and Stuart Gordon,the overal sound is a cross between "Clutch" and "What Know?".Beautifull melodies,where Hammill seems to have a patent on, and violent complexity are woven together as whole in a way we all know from previous outings.I would recommand this cd to the lover of progressive- and even RIO related music.Why is this man still relatively unknown compared to Robert Wyatt,Tom Waits and others.In his already impressive backcatalogue,you won`t find a really bad record.Masterpieces on the other hand are there in a quantity no other artist or group has ever achieved.Essential for everyone who likes inventive and original music!
Report this review (#30563)
Posted Friday, June 18, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars After Hammill released no album in 2003 I thought that he would be dead, or stopped making music. 2003 was the first year since decades without a Hammill release. But now, 2004 he is back with his new album "Incoherence", fotunately. The albums contains one song with a running time of 41:39 minutes. Incoherence is parted in 14 parts but it is actually one song. 41 minutes are very long for a single song but for an album it is rather short. On his website Hammill explains that 40-45 minutes are the perfect lenght for an album because within this time, the concentration for the music is on a high level. Evey minute longer would decrease the listeners attention. But I think that it depends on the music itself. I have no problem to listen to a long album if it is good.

After the acoustic album "Clutch" Hammill again concentrated on Keyboards, mainly E- Piano. Just like on its antecessor, there are no drums on "Incoherence". Here and there you can also hear the acoustic and electric guitar. Hammill's companions Stuart Gordon (violin) and David Jackson (saxophone and flute) are featured but the whole sound leaks a few instruments. I really would love to hear this album by VdGG. The overall picture is very mellow with casual distorted guitar dominated breakouts ("Logodaedalus", "Cretans Always Lie", "All Greek"). "Incoherence" is slightly reminicsent of former, late seventies, outputs (Ph7, The Future Now) without sounding similar. The topic of this concept album is, just like some titles hint, Speech, communication and the problems about it.

"Incoherence" is another great Hammill album and one I would recommend without concern. People liking VdGG and Hammill's earlier works should keep an eye on this one. 3,5 stars is a good rating and I'm sure this album played by all members of VdGG would have deserved more , at least for me.

Report this review (#30564)
Posted Monday, July 5, 2004 | Review Permalink
2 stars Hey it seems bad to write about an album that i don't all know by now the form of this album so let's get deep, track by track, and the cut hurts! Despite his title Incoherence is so coherent that for sure i miss the delirium of other albums. Plus it's so predictable that after 3 cuts i knew exactly when Peter would go mad (in a coherent way) and when it would be quiet!? The first track sets a quiet mood to start with , flutes floating and violin playing without inspiration,the voice is professionnal (and that's not a quality for me), the high notes are being force...but it remains without surprise, just well pose. it seeks into the second song with the same mood and with atmosphere that is ok nothing more. And the third cut with typical Hammill's guitar and piano that sounds sometimes like xylophone, enters in a sort of freaky way! Logodaedalus he sings and it sounds to me like Caterpillars, the piano repeats himself at nauseam and the guitars marks a new transition with voices close to the fall of the house of Usher.Ò It's no longer thereÓ Peter sings and in fact inspiration is no longer there. We all heard all those moods and melodies (?) before on albums far more inspired. The 5th song begins with violin, simple chords, uninspired again! Jaxon is on with a couple of notes but only atmospherically (?) And we already on the 6th track,in fact tomorrow starts to be the same as now or yesterday. The overdubed of i will , i will etc... are touching though (5 seconds) Then again something that sounds like MR.x orfaculty x for the seventh track, the 9th track as well! Can he get out of those chords? and musical traps? Here Peter hurts the wall of his limited talents on the piano and of 38 years working on the instrument and when he sings :Ò and zeno's arrow fliesÓ it sounds like ÒCome on for the paradox driveÓ or something like that and it reminds me of that song and it sounds in a second already so warm-up music!! The 8 th track is again freaky and with no interest. He is alone and missing new musicians or an inspired Jaxon or a producer! Fresh blood!Only a mood for the 10th track! ok but nothing fascinating and it falls in the usual freak out violin for the 11th track! The 3 last tracks are the good points of the album. Something at last is happening! something words can't explain! Specially in the 2 last cuts!And as a critic i can't use words because the magic is there! Language explodes! Time comes to be silent!Ssh.......
Report this review (#30566)
Posted Thursday, September 16, 2004 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars "Incoherence" is, to put it simply, the best PH recording in many, many years (and Hammill has certainly kept a high level of creativity and inventiveness during his entire career). I'd describe the music contained here as a perfect combination of the exquisite majesty of "House of Usher", the eerie density of most of his latest albums ("Everyone You Hold", "What Now?"), plus some of the expressive tension of his 78-80 input; yet managing to sound pretty refreshing indeed. The thing is that PH's musical genius and lyrical lucidity never seems to end: the same goes for the varied expressiveness if his singing and the clever correctness of his performances on keyboards and guitars. His guests (longtime friends and talented musicians David Jackson and Stuart Gordon) help him effectively to build this amazing tapestry of shining colors, subtle nuances and dynamic orchestrations with diverse touches on sax and violin. It is more a tapestry than a repertoire what is contained in "Incoherence", since it is not a collection of tracks but a single piece if music 'formally' divided into 14 titles. Of course, the unity of the material is not based on monotony, since there is plenty of room for variation in here (both compositionally and emotionally), but it's a fact that the overall feel of this album is that of an immaculately designed cohesiveness portrayed all along the succession of all 14 sections. This work is conceptually integrated upon the subject of language as a medium of communication, a medium that is full of paradoxes, distortions and inhibition. Nevertheless, since it is our only medium to connect with each other, we must hold on to it and try our best to keep any of the aforementioned inconveniences as far away as possible. The optimistic conclusion stated in 'Converse' is both clear and compelling: so "Incoherence" can be interpreted as a reflection that leads to reassure our faith in language, despite its inherent faults. My favorite moments are the sequences of titles 2-4 (a travel from introspectiveness to sensible angriness) and titles 7-10 ( in which the most intense parts of the album are contained). Anyway, despite the listener's particular preferences, let me restate that it is a single piece of music that I'm talking about, so it is more properly enjoyed as such. Balance - though we've still got 3 months ahead before 2004 ends, I locate "Incoherence" in my personal 2004 Top 5 without any hesitation.
Report this review (#30567)
Posted Sunday, September 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
2 stars Despite some of the enthusiastic reviews I've seen for this album, as someone who does have time for 'Pawn Hearts' and the best of Hammill's work from the 1970s/1980s, I thought that this was exceptionally predictable and occasionally genuinely poor and uninspired.

The main offenders for me are the poor midi keyboard sounds, the overwritten lyrics and the complete absence of melody (it seems as if the words were completed beforehand and Hammill has clumsily imposed his singing over the atmospheric backing tracks).

The theme may be about the difficulty of us using language to effectively communicate with one another, but ironically, the album's naive and polysyllabic lyrics get in the way of any true connection between the artist and the audience. Hammill seems detached from his work and his all too familiar whisper to a scream theatrical vocals serve only to illustrate a certain creative exhaustion throughout this project.

That said, the sax and guitar contributions are good, the atmospheric textures are interesting, and even at his worst, Hammill is a unique talent with one of the most distinctive voices in rock history.

Worth checking out for completists, but one to avoid for people wanting an introduction to Hammill (I'd suggest 'Pawn Hearts', 'Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night' or 'The Future Now' instead).

Report this review (#30570)
Posted Sunday, April 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I've been listening to Peter Hammill's compositions for some 30 years now. I've always found them to be fascinating and extremely well made. InCoherence is no exception. Thank you, Peter, for sharing with us your unwavering love for your music. Thank you for continuing to create new and challenging compositions for all of us to enjoy.
Report this review (#61832)
Posted Monday, December 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Incoherence is a 41 minute work in 14 parts. The central theme is language; it's influences, impossibilities, misunderstandings, contradictions and frustrations. Hammill followers will undoubtedly be enthralled by the musicianship of this album, with the usual duo of David Jackson (sax and flute), and Stuart Gordon (violin). As on his "House of Usher" opera, the work contains no percussion. This does not mean the music lacks substance; in fact it is hard to imagine a production such as this with drums etc. This however is a complex piece and is probably his most taxing yet. To quote PH - '...some of it is extraordinarily difficult. At the end of one section Mr Gordon was driven to say "That's the weirdest tune I've ever had to play" '. On first hearing I was impressed but felt somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer density and volume of so much information and found a couple of the earlier sections almost tried my patience. But as is often the case with Hammill's work, repeated listening brings its reward and the whole thing fitted into place. Eventual coherence you could say.
Report this review (#62893)
Posted Monday, January 2, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars A strong, very promising beginning, but then Peter seems to have forgotten to include great melodies. Don't get me wrong, this is an ambitious record, in some respects even comparable to Silent Corner and other great records from the 70s. But it does lack energy, enthusiasm and emotional depth. Perhaps what bugs me most is the fact that despite its intellectual concept of communication as something impenetrable and unfathomable, there is not much feeling I can relate to. This has always been a quality of Hammill's music though. An important one, IMhO. Had this been a full blown production with drums and stuff, I'm sure it might have sounded better! There are loud, noisy, disturbing parts, but too many shallow or predictable moments, I'm afraid. Hammill is at his best whenever he's absolutely devoted to what he's doing and even goes over the top! This is what fascinates me about this guy. A *must* for the fans, yes, but difficult to access for everyone else and, what's more important: difficult to love... Recommendable: What, now - X My Heart - This
Report this review (#72462)
Posted Tuesday, March 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars This precise album is rather different from the usual Hammill album as it is a bit of a concept album with 14 tracks, but all presented as a whole and no (or little) sound barrier to separate them. One of the things that strikes most with this album is that the dynamic range and general tone are much more nervous than the early 90's albums he made, and musically this 00's period is also much more impressive fro progheads. One could even imagine him back in The Future Now or even In Camera albums. Rings a bell and raise your eyebrows in interest? Ya betcha!! This could be Hammill's most interesting (and most certainly his most challenging) album in over two and a half decades.

There is a passage that will make you think of Gog/Magog (the nightmarish section) on In Camera, there are moments where you could almost feel VdGG's paws if it was not for the stripped down line-up (the usual Jackson and Gordon, but no Potter) and a rather rejuvenated enthusiasm all make the album, the highlight of his recent discography (although I admit I have not heard every album). The conceptual lyrics concentrate on "the impossibilities of language", but I must say this is rather Incoherent a concept, especially when Hammill diverts the focus to Greece and Crete. Converse is one of the many highlights, but I pick this one over the others, because of its insistent violin providing a real tension.

If you are a neophyte to Hammill's recent discography, this is clearly the album you should start with, and even if you are a confirmed fan, this album should reconcile you with him after a clear "passage à vide" from the previous decade. Recommended!

Report this review (#77892)
Posted Friday, May 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars It is often difficult to apprehend a Hammill album. And the supporting members are not always an indication.

The band now has stabilized with Stuart and Dave providing their musical input to their friend. So many years together even if they didn't continuously worked with one other is a nice proof of confidence and prolonged complicity.

This long piece of music has its ups and downs; but I would say that the ups are clearly winning the battle. It is true that the first part (some eight minutes) is the most interesting one but as with most of the long epics, it is almost impossible to avoid some weaker moments.

The global feeling is that the Graaf is back for most of this work; and this can only please me. I would have prefer Jackson a bit more on the forefront; the keys influence is too evident but after it is a PH album.

At times, the listener is brought back in time (the early seventies): "Cretans Always Lie" followed by "All Greek" without transition and little to no mood difference are a good example of the complexity of the Graaf; this was not precisely available on other PH albums.

The intensity of the work falls a down after mid-time and it could have been shortened a bit IMO. This is causing one star to be cut off my rating which is three stars.

Still, the "Gone Ahead" section is superb. This is Hammill at his best. A tranquil and relaxed singing, subtle violin. I only miss some fine fluting to complete the picture. It is the most emotional part of this long musical piece. The concept is also interesting to me (I learned languages) since it is all about communication.

A good Hammill effort I would say.

Report this review (#183226)
Posted Monday, September 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#234529)
Posted Sunday, August 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars EDITED REVIEW: I remember being quite disappointed with this album after the first few listens. I just went through Hammill's entire catalogue again and this album, together with Clutch, has struck me now as one of his best albums since Patience.

I kept the original review here below as it is interesting to see how I thought about it 5 years ago. While some of the remarks about the slightly dated sound still stand, I believe the effect is nevertheless successful. As usual Hammill albums are best appreciated when you've submitted yourself completely to his universe.

After a strong couple of albums, Incoherence seems to continue Hammill's new found inspiration. Unfortunately, that impression didn't last more then 3 listens. After a while it turns out this record is a nice exercise in style but doesn't contain many songs or ideas that stick. Hammill is at loss for inspiration. But worst of all it the damn sound of this thing. Again, Hammill has adapted his late 80's and 90's sound, which was already overdue more then 20 years earlier. It sounds not very different from Skin or In a Foreign Town. Yes, the plastic look and feel is back. I can hear some potential here, but I won't listen to it again.

I wouldn't recommend this as your first Hammill album, but if you're into the man then give it a chance, and also a few years until you pass final judgement :)

Report this review (#237579)
Posted Sunday, September 6, 2009 | Review Permalink

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