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Peter Hammill - In Camera CD (album) cover


Peter Hammill


Eclectic Prog

4.14 | 452 ratings

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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.


LinusW | 4/5 |


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