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Record Review Reprint
The K Group
Hammill's FIE! release of this is better mastered and as a result a little louder than the Virgin albums. Please excuse me while I adjust the volume: I like to listen the albums I am reviewing as I write. A large shift in emphasis towards the end of his mid-period when the K Group arose as a vehicle for Hammill's work. The first time that Hammill sounded identifiably in the 1980s, this is a far more accessible affair. I suppose it is quite rock oriented but the vocals make it so different that I have never really so regarded it. Paradox Drive even has a disco beat, not that this is too overriding. The Unconscious Life begins as a solo piano work but noticeably more mature and lighter in the chorus than previously. I can understand why people might prefer this era of Hammill to any other due to its obvious discipline but I still have a strong preference for the early material myself. It is surprising that Hammill's solo output took this long to reach the same sort of sound and maturity Van der Graaf reached in their late career years earlier. I suspect that this is due to working in a group context which serves to curb his "excesses". I would not say his excesses were ever anything other than an aesthetic merit but I know others think otherwise. Back on theme, Accidents shows a rediscovered feel for original rhythm that seemed to go latent with the demise of Van der Graaf. The chorus is a gem of absorbed heterogeny. Brilliant, quite brilliant. The Great Experiment is a little plain and repetitive overall even though it is delivered with energy. Don't Tell Me has more of the advanced piano style which seems to be bound up with a more restrained delivery and some wonderful key change allusions. A sustained repetitive high piano note leads throughout She Wraps it Up using vocal harmony to good effect. A little verse-chorus-verse to be really effective but its traditional quality is strong. Happy Hour is a deceptively laconic but advanced piece that only suffers from being a little long and mildly tedious towards the end. Why does the guitar line towards the end remind me of Alex Lifeson early-mid period Rush? A bonus track on the FIE! release is Seven Wonders which follows in the footsteps on the previous track in its exposition towards the end. A rather unpleasant 1980s pop guitar line opens something that is somewhat redeemed by the syncopated chorus. Quite a different feel, this album is a mature but rather "safe" Hammill album that is well worth attention but solidifies a position that excludes much of the raw appeal of the early material I feel.
© 1996 Phil Kime
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