Peter Hammill

Incoherence

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Unlike anything else Peter Hammill has done before, Incoherence seems to counterbalance the relative simplicity of his previous studio outing, Clutch. A multi-tracked keyboard extravaganza, Incoherence consists of a single 42-minute suite in 14 movements. There are separate songs, but they are segued in ways that make the transitions unnoticeable, especially on first listen. That alone is enough to set the album apart from its neighbors in Hammill's discography, but there is more: a renewed urge to experiment with forms and textures within the song format; a rare level of richness and complexity in the arrangements; and the overarching concept of incoherence, language, and miscommunication that ties all 14 songs into a single, highly convincing whole. Several listeners will have a harder time getting into this album, as it demands some focused listening and requires assessment as a complete work, instead of being absorbed song by song. Some of the keyboard sounds are rather trite, but Hammill's multi-keyboard arrangements are a step or two ahead of his usual self, with some sections sounding surprisingly close to some of Peter Gabriel's work. Hammill also plays acoustic and electric guitars, although keyboards remain the main focus. Stuart Gordon adds violin in several sections, and Van der Graaf Generator alumnus David Jackson contributes saxes and flutes. Highlights include "Babel," the electronic-sounding "Cretans Always Lie," and the poignant ballad "Gone Ahead," which has become a live favorite (see Veracious). Even though Incoherence is a suite, not an epic track, it still feels like Hammill's most ambitious undertaking since "Flight." It also represents a high mark in the man's artistic creativity.

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