Peter Hammill

Consequences

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Even longtime diehards will admit that, over the course of 30 solo studio albums, Peter Hammill has occasionally switched on the autopilot -- which still ranks him higher than a lot of his contemporaries, but does mean there are occasional bursts where his albums are more or less interchangeable. That is not a problem here. Last time out, Thin Air caught him riding the momentum of the equally spellbinding Van Der Graaf regeneration, and Consequences simply picks up where it left off. Sonically, its closest relative is probably pH7, back at the end of the 1970s. There is the same eye for harmonics and dissonance, stark chorales that dislocate even as they hold the melodies together, and the impression throughout that Hammill is holding something back -- something that he then ekes out through the lyrics. Consequences is a brutal listen, its theme the consequences indeed of careless communication, whether overt or otherwise. "New Pen Pal" and "Scissors" are especially brooding, while Hammill's almost spoken-word accounting of a (fictional? Allegorical?) run-in with a stalking admirer is genuinely chilling. Balancing that, however, "Perfect Pose" has a supertight melody; it's a "typical" Hammill creation in many ways, and so bare-rose beautiful that you can step from here to almost any of his other career highlights, and the majestic continuity of his overall output is blinding. Certainly Consequences reminds you why, after so many years and so many albums, Hammill's reputation as one of our finest writers and performers remains a living, growing edifice and not a dusty line in the history books.

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