Peter Hammill’s rejuvenation continues with this, his 30th solo release.
Daryl Easlea 2009-06-12
The rejuvenation of Peter Hammill post his near-death experience in 2003 continues with this, his 30th solo release since 1971. He has since recorded two albums and toured with a reunited Van Der Graaf Generator and, in 2006, also issued Singularity, one of his strongest works in years about his near-passing.
Although he said that Thin Air is a long way from any VdGG, he may be right, but not, perhaps, a million miles from the band's later 70s incarnation. With him the sole instrumentalist, he returns to a sound not dissimilar to 1980's A Black Box, which is appropriate as the motif of flight and aeroplanes features in two key songs here.
Thin Air finds him again ruminating on one of his favourite topics, the transience of life. ''We mark our passages as much as by the way in which we disappear all unannounced as by our grand planned entrances'', he states. The overall effect is coherent, sometimes restful; at least not as purposely jarring as some of his releases.
The guitar squall of instrumental interlude Wrong Way Round, leads into the sinister Ghost Of Planes, which is the sister piece to the album's closer, The Top Of The World Club. Both were inspired by the visit to the observation platform at the top of the World Trade Center made by Hammill and VdGG drummer Guy Evans in 1976 and then what was to happen 25 years afterwards.
Using the felling of these two concrete monoliths as a start point, the songs brings together the album's feel of loss and longing. But Hammill says, the references ''do not imply that anything here is 'about' 9/11 in any direct way. Not just the buildings come down then: assumptions, belief systems, senses of continuity also crashed, on personal and global levels. This piece, though, as the others on the record, is not concerned so much with the Big Pictures; rather with the way in which we as individuals can and must face up to what's coming - and going''. Both songs are among his major pieces of work.
Thin Air sounds like a man perpetually attempting to be at one with himself and the world around him yet beset with frequent nagging doubts and paranoia. It may not attract him any new followers but those who know will revel in this.