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Hammill, Peter - Incoherence

SKU 39-Fie 9129
"Thirty-five years and dozens of recordings down the pike, Peter Hammill has finally devoted an entire album of material (one 41-minute work in 14 sections) to the subject that is at the very heart of his art: language. His lyrics - even in the early days, on the first albums by Van der Graaf Generator - have always been insightful, literate and thought-provoking, ever the beating heart of his music. This album explores multiple aspects of the word - its meaning, power, implications, magic and more. The lyrics are wonderfully typical of Hammill in that they are the ultimate in `self'-revealing - and at the same time they act as a literary and psychological mirror in which we can (if we have the will and the courage) view ourselves, hopefully bringing us closer to truly recognizing and knowing the truths that reside within us.
Musically, this recording is more akin to some of Peter's earlier, more densely arranged works (bits of SILENT CORNER AND THE EMPTY STAGE and IN CAMERA come to mind - though he's certainly not repeating himself) and less like the acoustic guitar-centered CLUTCH from late 2002. He's aided and abetted here by long-term collaborator David Jackson (another Van der Graaf alumnus) on saxes and flutes, as well as Stuart Gordon (who has played on several of Peter's recordings as well) on violin. All of the other instruments (guitars and keyboards) as well as all of the vocals, are by Peter.
In the brief notes on the CD insert, Hammill states that `...the substance of the text here is of the impossibilities of language'. I'm interpreting this as referring to the `impossibilities' encountered by we humans in recognizing the implications of the words with which we attempt to communicate our feelings, thoughts, hopes, fears, promises, blessings and curses to each other and to ourselves - and how vital this `impossible' tool/concept is to our survival, both in a physical as well as a philosophical sense. The entire lyric for the opening section, `When language corrodes': `And when language corrodes all our faculties falter and blur. Nobody knows how our tongues got so swollen and furred. What truths are there left to be told when we're all lost for words?' If we cannot control or grasp the significance and power and implications of our speech, what hope can we hold of communicating and surviving? Even what we DON'T say colours the meaning - in `Babel', he writes `...Words upon words, fiction folly and fable, each pregnant pause a dead giveaway...ploughing on undeterred as the sell-bys expire on our labels, though at length we have little or nothing to say...' Before we know it, the time that is given to us for interrelating and interacting has passed - the window is closed.
Some of the lyrical sections are extremely brief - and so much is said in so few words. `Like perfume': `Once spoken, words perfume the air like woodsmoke, like a breath of self that's no longer there. Such confidence, such half-baked truth...the sound of distant voices mocks the hubris of youth.' A phrase Hammill used to describe the musical aspect of CLUTCH (the album featured no keyboards, bass, electric guitars or drums) is appropriate to apply to the lyrical structure of INCOHERENCE: `The palette is restricted but the canvas is broad'.
Like all of his works, INCOHERENCE is an album that unfolds slowly, more fully, with repeated attentive listening - and given the subject addressed here, perhaps even more so than any other. I've been listening to - and delighting in - Peter's music since the early 1970s, and I continue to be rewarded with each new release. His lyrics and music never fail to open my mind and ears and soul a little further - and he remains one of the most dedicated and uncompromising artists I've been blessed to hear. His work is always challenging and rewarding to the listener - and above all else, filled with integrity."-Larry Looney
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