REVIEW: Roger Eno & Peter Hammill - “The Appointed Hour"

By Ray Van Horn, Jr.

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The Appointed HourRobert Smith and Steve Severin from Siouxie and the Banshees created The Glove in the spirit of experimentalism and came up with something rather posh for its time and place in the history of alternative music, hip yet forgotten in most circles, but the end result was a celebration between two figureheads meeting under the banner of creating something artistic totally by chance.

Keeping this credo in mind, Roger Eno and Peter Hammil's The Appointed Hour is as unique a collaboration as one will find. The history behind this project lies in the backgrounds of the musicians themselves. Roger Eno, brother to electronica pioneer and producer Brian Eno, and Peter Hammill, whose lush prog rock history backdates from the early '70s, designated a specific date and time (April 1, 1999 between 1 and 2:00) for recording in separate studios for exactly one hour. The finished works of both men were mixed by Hammill with some "art glue," as he states in the liner notes, to come up with what Eno cites as "a thing built of chance, of different elements tied together, with no artifice and little plan, with no concrete idea, two people figuring it out..."

Roger Eno & Peter HammilThe long distance between these artists should be kept well in mind while listening to The Appointed Hour. Chaos Theory prevails in this modern-day chamber music extravaganza, and while certain moments are quirky, the end result is mystifying, as if Eno and Hammill fell into some sort of cosmic zone that transcended the miles splicing them. The Appointed Hour is one continuous loop of music broken down into twenty songs, more for convenience to the listener than to themselves. The overdubs used to bisect their work leaves The Appointed Hour with a feel that this is one of those Soothing Moments compilations with legitimacy.

The moody piano work and the aquatic, Tangerine Dream-like synthesizers serve as the roots to the songs, which are intercut with random guitar rivulets and occasional bits of ersatz that sometimes gives this project moments of shakiness. Nevertheless, considering the Ed Van Fleet ambience and the hints of jazz (for instance on Up and Fools) sprinkled through The Appointed Hour, it is remarkable Eno and Hammill are able to put together such cohesiveness from their secretive material.

Your Heart begins in a sketchy manner in its opening tones which quickly homogenizes into a cardiac arrest rhythm with the guitar in a creative manner, while Fear effectively conveys trepidation with its cautious arrangements (even if blended from two tapes), which escalates and flutters into a hopeful resurgence that gives a feeling of true art. Angels and Fall both have a dreamy texture with their expert mixing, while But has an inspiring syncopation that gets hammered by hard piano strikes and trippy Floyd-esque fretwork. Rush In feels like a Japanese score reinterpreted through the floating synthesizers, while To Tread lends a slight Gershwin rhapsody that ends too quickly, as does the soothing So How. They're hit-and-run moments of magic that makes one wish there was more to these sections.

Once in awhile, the project tweaks, as on the overt nothingness of In, and Never, which begins on a promising note, but gets lost within itself in experimental hodgepodge, never rescuing itself back from the woods it meanders into. Regardless, for the mishmash mentality of The Appointed Hour, this album works, to the strengths of the individuals, and, more notably, to the collaborative effort. Perhaps Eno/Hammill is more noteworthy than The Glove, but in both respects, the musical genius is subversive and beneficial to those who appreciate team-ups of like-minded artists who construct something meaningful under a what-the-hell precipice.

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