Peter Hammill: Incoherence

Only English version this time

„Incoherence” is an album by Peter Hammill, released on his Fie! label in 2004. „Incoherence” is a concept album about language, comprising of 14 tracks which have soft transitions. The album was produced and played by Peter Hammill himself with some contributions from Stuart Gordon on violins and David Jackson on flute and saxes. Incoherence is recognized by critics as ambitious and one of the major works of Peter Hammill.

„Incoherence” is the fourth time Peter Hammill performed, with Van der Graaf Generator or solo, a long piece of music with continuous transitions between sections which can be identified as single songs. But compared to „A Plague of Lighthouse-Keepers” (1971 with Van der Graaf Generator), „Flight” (1980) and „A Headlong Stretch” (1994), Incoherence with 41 minutes has twice the length, bringing it to a total of both sides of the classic Vinyl LP.

Musically, the 14 sections vary widely from calm, harmonic songs to difficult and highly demanding sections, tied together by Hammill’s unusual voice, a focus on keyboards and the concept of this album: language.

„Incoherence” was produced in Peter Hammill's studio „Terra Incognita” in Somerset between March and September, 2003. Mixing ended just two days before Hammill suffered a heart attack in December, 2003.

The instrumentation of „Incoherence” is well arranged, complex and symphonic, but never overdone and leaving some rather simple musical structures, mainly in the beginning and the end. Beneath keyboards in classical as well as in processed forms, Peter Hammill used guitars, backing vocals and some overdubs by the violins of Stuart Gordon and the saxophones of David Jackson. This kind of instrumentation was Peter Hammill’s main form of producing since the 90s, but this time with an even higher level of complexity and the renunciation of drums.

In „Incoherence” Peter Hammill discusses the contradictions and shortcomings of language, given that „our capacities for communication and comprehension define us both socially and personally”. In multi-levelled ways the words of this album describe the „incoherent” use and the impossibilities of words. It was argued that Peter Hammill referenced the infamous Iraq speech of Tony Blair.

The cover, designed by Paul Ridout, shows corroded and burnt surfaces with lines of text. Folded out, the booklet contains a tower built with the lines of the songs of Incoherence. Obviously the artist references the Tower of Babel.

Critics received „Incoherence” favourable, speaking of a „major work, challenging pop's conventional limits yet again” (The Independent), being „Hammill's most ambitious undertaking since 'Flight', and representing a high mark in the man's artistic creativity” (All Music Guide). However, it was pointed out that „Incoherence demands absorption throughout time and repeated listens” (Maelstrom).

Peter Eisenburger, 2nd January 2008.


Hochgeladen am 10. August 2021.