Between Coma and Consciousness

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Let's make one thing absolutely clear: The cover states "lyrics by Peter Hammill reset by Klar." It means: familiar lyrics, new songs. This Czech trio selected nine poems by the famous songwriter, ranging from his early days with Van der Graaf Generator up to all periods of his solo career. But they are not cover versions. The music has been completely rewritten, so fans, brace yourself for the shock. What is interesting here is the fact that Hammill's music, with Van der Graaf Generator and afterwards, bears a striking resemblance in mood to many artists of the Czech rock underground during the communist regime. The sense of oppression, hopeless love, dark atmospheres, and tortured spirituality conveyed by both lyrics and music find resonance in the songs of many Czech artists (not to mention the compatibility in stage persona between Hammill and Psí Vojáci's leader, Filip Topol). So this "update" by Volkmar Miedtke, Dominik Mohr, and Vladimír Václavek (of Dunaj, Rale, and mostly Iva Bittová fame) has socio-historical grounds. And some of these songs provide interesting new settings that give different dimensions to poems like "Wondering," "Tapeworm," or "She Wraps It Up" -- dirtier and much more single-minded, almost Krautrock in essence. On the other hand, this reviewer found himself incapable of going through "Patient" and the dub stylings of "Now More Than Ever" will make a few listeners cringe. For Hammill fans, this is a very weird tribute. For Václavek fans, it remains an unusual album; one has to point out that it's weaker than usual, stripped from his delicate, inventive arrangements. Be warned.