|PETER HAMMILL THIS||
01. Frozen In Place (fragment) (0:45)
02. Unrehearsed (7:00)
03. Stupid (4:24)
04. Since The Kids (5:55)
05. Nightman (6:13)
06. Fallen (The City Of Night) (5:36)
07. Unready (fragment) (0:42)
08. Always Is Next (3:59)
09. Unsteady (fragment) (0:56)
10. The Light Continent (14:01)
Total playing time: 49:35
Stuart Gordon: Violin & Viola (2,5-10)
Manny Elias: Drums & Percussion (2,3,6,8)
David Jackson: Sax & Flute (2,3,5,8,10)
otherwise all Peter Hammill (Vox, Guitar, Keyboards)
Recorded & mixed at Terra Incognita, Bath Jan-Jul'98 (24-track ADAT)
Produced & engineered by Peter Hammill
Design & art direction by Paul Ridout (Ridart)
Photo: Martin B. Reynolds
'When this album was recorded & first came out I was very much taken by the synchronicity of numbers: the fortieth album, in my fiftieth year & so on. I suppose it was inevitable that it should be so - especially since at the outset of things (or at least the point at which the idea occurred that I *might* be doing this for a considerable length of time) I had thought that an aim of making fifty albums over a career might be a decent target. At the distance of a few years, this seems something of an albatross to hang around the CD's neck, implying a degree of consciousness & significance about its making which is some way at odds with the actual content.
In truth, I made this record much like all the others, being dragged along, up, down & into each song by the songs themselves. Disparate a collection as it may be, it seems to me now that these pieces add up to a coherently consistent whole.
The personnel on the album are the members of the pH quartet, but here their contributions are much more as individuals than was the case on 'X my heart'; this is not in any sense a 'band' disc. Since I'd taken it as my aim to make a set of songs which covered the majority of the bases which comprise my style (if such a thing exists) it was inevitable that the unifying factors would be song & voice rather than instrumentation.
It would be fair to say that the songs fall into three categories: constructed, found & discovered.
Construction is the most normal way of writing a song, of course: a melody, chord sequence or lyrical idea makes itself known & is then worked upon until it becomes a song entire. 'Unrehearsed', 'Nightman' & 'Fallen (the City of Night)' fall into this category.
'Unrehearsed' is the song which comes closest to the 'epic' & band styles here. (Perhaps it's odd, therefore, that this is the one I've played most from this album live, in solo & duo formats.) There's an inexorable shape to this one & the pHQ imprint is fairly clear. Maybe I should have cut the riff section down a bit, but it was great fun to play & there were also some constructional shapes which demanded it last that long! Very sympathetic playing from all concerned. As is often the case, the admonishment given to a second person singular could equally be taken as being addressed to myself.
'Nightman' is a straight acoustic guitar tune. I can still remember the specific moment which inspired it, when I woke at the dead of night & sat outside, thinking that I was thinking things through, but knowing that I'd recall little or nothing the next morning. At least I recalled enough to document the sensation of the moment...which, I believe, is not something that's not just to do with me personally.
'Fallen' has an odd resonance, post 9/11. But it's not just with dramatic events that cities change under our feet & before our oblivious eyes. I was, of course, writing about London, after (another) fogwalk through streets which I once knew well but which are now alien to me. We carry the cities of our pasts in memory; the actual cities are something else, especially at night. (And the fogwalking reference is not accidental.) And night itself is a different city. Well, I won't go into the densities of the lyrics here, beyond the obvious night fallen, city fallen, pay attention at the back element. But I'm not a teacher, am I? Just a trickturner between word & music....A propos of which...a neat (I think!) bit of Krebs Technik to get out of the the choruses & into the end, which took an age to sit exactly right. A good riff used incredibly sparingly for once!
It may seem strange to say that 'Since the Kids', to all intents & purposes a deliberated piano tune, is 'found' but it is indeed the case. The song came from a lengthy improvisation on piano - about twenty minutes' worth if I recall correctly. I then took this into the studio & proceeded to edit it mercilessly until getting the full form. Only then did I go about finding the lyrics. Incidentally, my intention in these was to be absolutely positive, yet realistic, about the parenting process.
'Stupid' (yet sweet at the same time) was found just by messing around to rhythm tracks. Eventually the shape imposed itself. An odd collision of instinctive guitar with my first forays into soft synth world. The wild voice, of course, was just that, an undisciplined wail.
'Always is next' sprung itself into being found from the bass pulse. All the guitars & tune eventually coalesced around that, although it took a long time to get this one under control, infused with some retro spirit of Nadir as it is. The Son of Sam-ish imagery took me completely by surprise (yes, discovering what a song is about can be like that...) but was entirely apposite.
And in the 'discovered' corner we have 'The Light Continent'. This was entirely improvised as far as music is concerned. I began playing one morning in a completely open - if somewhat anxiously reflective & sombre - frame of mind. Just 'I'm making music', in a free sense. (As it turned out, while I was doing this, sombre & changing stuff was indeed happening elsewhere, but that's entirely another story which I choose to retain as private....) I played my parts...my performance...in one continuous pass, adjusting the various sound sources I was using as I went. Again, a process of editing brought the piece into (admittedly long) shape. By this time the vocal line, theme & lyrics were well under way. (From the outset I'd had something of a feeling for the dispassionate white emptiness of the Sout Pole....) David & Stuart's contributions were made under strict rules: they were allowed only two passes each. The first was without having heard the music at all; the only reference points I gave them were 'It's 14 minutes long & it's Antarctic'. I remain really happy with this piece.
Also discovered are the three fragments which appear on the disc as link passages. Their presence is essential in order to glue the whole thing together. It's often the case that while recording one listens to small sections or loops of fundamentally backing music which are fascinating nuggets in themselves, but will never really get to be centre stage. For three such moments this was the chance for individual attention.
On the cover - apart from Paul Ridout's 'artist's own' collection of objects which embed or signify time - the tachograph disc was ripped out of the machine at high speed by Stuart on one of the many band Euro-jaunts, to general hilarity, & the watch was my father's. It stopped on my wrist within a day of my taking over the wearing of it.
There's a lot of Stuff on this disc & it goes to some extreme places but overall it has, for me, a reflective quality which simultaneously acknowledges & regrets the passage of time & of how small we are in the great stream. But always is next (soon come), so we'd better get on with now....
This record was made in 1998, but it seems longer ago to me. So much, & much of the unexpected, has happened since then; but essentially the songs here say 'accept what's happening right now & go with it (even if it's already past, even if you know it will be past)'. So...whenever it was made, it is done. Believe me, I don't pretend to have anything but through-view, as opposed to overview.
In the course of these recordings I believe I learned enough to sustain me over (at least) the next ten years of work...while I wasn't paying too much attention to learning.
These notes have been made without any reference to the newsletter of the time, so may well be at odds with some opinions expressed therein. So what & see below. The stuff is the stuff.' (PH)
(P) © 1998 FIE! Records