As I've written before, if you ask any ten Peter Hammill fans what their favourite solo PH album is, you'll most likely get ten different answers, and they'll all be able to argue their case passionately. Bear that in mind as you read any of these reviews, especially mine.
I've been a Hammill fan for some years now, and he's one of the few artists that, while I will not always agree with his musical choices, I will forgive him pretty much anything. If he turns out something that...um, may not be to my taste, there's a good chance that, at some point, he'll come back with something that's just stunning. It may take a while, but he will. His previous release, "Singularity", took me by surprise after a series of so-so albums for being quite so brilliant, sharp and cohesive. After that, I held my breath and waited to see how he'd follow that.
And so we have "Thin Air" which, while it lacks the immediacy of its predecessor, shines with a luminous, eerie quality all of its own. It's a dense, layered piece, full of ruminations on death and even suicide and yet...and yet, somehow Hammill, in his inimitable and unique way, works it into something approaching glory. It feels muted, but beats with a definite pulse right from the human heart. Of particular note are the menacing, sinuous instrumental "Wrong Way Round", the spooky, other-worldly "Ghosts of Planes" with its chugging, twanging guitars in the background, sounding as if they fell off the back of a David Lynch film and "If We Must Part Like This", which spirals outwards, chiming acoustic guitars and chugging electric ones circling Hammill's still-astonishing voice. There's also the anthemic "Undone" and....well, every corner you turn on this album yields another surprise. The thing is, every time you turn the same corner, there's a different surprise waiting for you.
Despite his protestations (and those of his more hard-core fans) Hammill is definitely an acquired taste, but he's one that's worth the effort. Those who give this album a chance will be richly rewarded with an intelligent, passionate and haunting experience.