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Peter Hammill - The Future Now CD (album) cover

THE FUTURE NOW

Peter Hammill

 

Eclectic Prog

3.50 | 219 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars After the emotional turmoil that busted out in the deeply personal album "Over", Hammill decided to re-expand his field of lyrical interests for his following effort "The Future Now". Besides the introspective intentions in the romantic lament exposed in the beautiful acoustic ballad 'If I Could' and the confession of midlife crisis explicated in 'Mousetrap', the thing is that Hammill is generally concerned about more global stuff, such as the fate of humankind (the title track and 'Mediaevil'), the racial apartheid in South Africa ('A Motorbike in Afrika'), the limitations of human knowledge ('Still in the Dark'), the dark side of success ('Trappings' and 'Energy Vampires'), and eventually, the tensions inherent to the process of musical creation and production (the last two tracks). This openness in the lyrical aspect is properly parallel to the sonic sources that Hammill is employing here: synth layers, sound effects, a considerable amount of bizarre reconstructions and deconstructions designed in the mixing console in order to create an amazing feedback with the instrumentation. It is also clear that Hammill was well aware of the (then) new directions that were beginning to get noticeable in the late 70s pop scene, as the first two numbers unabashedly show. 'Pushing Thirty' is a refurbished old fashioned rock'n'roll track with a new-waveish twist: the piano and guitar parts laid on the programmed rhythm pattern and hand clapping serves to convey Peter's enduring optimism while facing that dreaded forthcoming 30th birthday. Sure our friend Peter can still be Nadir, as some of the remaining tracks will show, but before all that, 'The Second Hand' insists on the subject of the unstoppable passage of the years, this time in a not so optimistic mood, but with irony and resignation: yet this is not supposed to be a depressive thing, since the rhythm pattern (again) sets a funny R'n'B path and gives a new-waveish air to the song. The first signals of sheer musical disturbance are incarnated in the delirious violin lines of 'Energy Vampires', which are deliciously combined with the electric guitar multi-layers. But it isn't until the second half of the album that the avant-garde genius shines with impressive brightness. The title track is a furious critical look at our contemporary look: Hammill's red hot singing suits perfectly well the urgent claims spat out in the lyrics, while the piano sounds majestic and the lead guitar explores its own roads all along. 'Still in the Dark' turns things down a notch in order to focus on the feeling of confusion that comes from the awareness of one's own ignorance: no Socratic optimism here, but a declaration of unconditional surrender of the skeptical philosopher. Things get still more somber in 'Mediaevil': Hammill delivers his criticism of modern social structure as a kind of reiteration of the Middle Ages ancient regime, while a Gothic chorus struggles to flood all over the place with its oppressive wall of sound. Enough of challenging intelligence and intensity? Not at all! 'A Motorbike in Afrika' is one of the most outstanding anti-songs ever created by the human mind!! Peter delivers his critical portrait of the apartheid in a tribal ambience: his recitations, the background chorale, the electronic effects, all of them build an amazing sonic picture of the jungle, the motorbike that goes around and around, the everyday frenzy in a fractured society - all of these elements ordained to exorcise the ever present ghosts of institutionalized racial discrimination. No real shouting here, but the humanitarian's anger is there, palpable, unhidden. 'The Cut' and 'Palinurus' complete the air of undeterred weirdness with its constant twists: Hammill allowed the engineering process to become part of the performing, and by doing so, laid the foundations for a most fruitful dialectics between the musician and the electronic devices. Although more experimental than proggy per se, "The Future Now" stands out as an avant-garde rock gem that fits suitable for any bold prog lover's collection.
Cesar Inca | 5/5 |

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