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Out of Water
Peter Hammill

1. Evidently Goldfish
2. Not the Man
3. No Moon in the Water
4. Our Oyster
5. Something about Ysabel's Dance
6. Green Fingers
7. On the Surface
8.A Way Out

Recorded at Sofa Sound (Freshford) & Terra Incognita, Bath, Jan-Aug '89 (24-track analogue)
Mixed at Crescent Studios /Terra Incognita, Jan-Aug '89
Produced by PH. (except "Ysabel" by PH/David Lord
Mix engineering by PH and DAVID LORD.
Musicians: STUART GORDON violin (5)
JOHN ELLIS guitars (1,7)
DAVID JACKSON saxophones (3, 6)
NIC POTTER bass (3, 6)
otherwise all PH

Cover drawing by John Ellis

A turning point, or any number of turning points. The bridge between everything which had gone before and whatever now is; definitely the start of The New.
(Not that I would have thought so, particularly, at the time; in the way of things one moves on and forward and only sees that a moment, a song, a record, was pivotal in retrospect.)
It's axiomatic that I couldn't do what I do, what I've done, without a measure of self-confidence. On these recordings I was positively infused with the stuff. Perhaps this came as a result of analysis of what was right and what was wrong with "In a Foreign Town". In any event, I now felt on top of the technology and able to use it as part of the palette, rather than having to fight it. As a result all sorts of hybrid ways of working, of composition, of subject matter, are on offer here.
Some of the principal characteristics: I began to play more and more electric guitar...though most of the lead stuff was still down to Fury. Much of this guitar was colour-wash rather than structural. Most of the synth work fell into the same category. (I think, therefore, that this was the initiation of the style with which I've been most occupied in the latest CDs, notably "Everyone you Hold" and "None of the Above".) I didn't feel a compulsion to stick rhythm parts on everything; this was a return to previous theories ("Chameleon, f'rinstance.) Where there is percussion it's still a bit lumpy, but better than the last efforts! I felt much more confident about string arrangements (after "Time to Burn"). Above all I was right in the zone of "Why does a "song" have to be a certain way, be constructed in a certain way, be about certain subjects?".
The songs. "Goldfish" originated from a tune I'd had since 1967 at the latest, but had never got round to working. (Originally called "Kandahar", trivia-lovers...). "Not the Man" is the closest thing to a pop song here. There's a degree of ambivalence about it...yes, of course it's "a love song" but there's also a measure of addressing you, the audience in it. If I'm not now perceived as the man I was then what? No blame. By the same token, I now believe that "Green Fingers" is as much an admonition to myself as anyone else (though I did have someone else in mind...): got to stay engaged, got to stay passionate, got to stay in the real. "No Moon" is the first of (there have been a later succession) what one might call zen hymns. The subject matter is one of the koans from Zen flesh, zen bones. (Not that I'm a total adherent or would want to proselytise in any way, y'understand?) The backing track derived from pure experimentation and editing.
"Our Oyster" speaks for itself still...and things don't seem to have got significantly better since in the various fields it addresses. "Ysabel" was another tune which took some time to establish where it was going lyrically...it was originally set in the disturbances of Paris '68. OK, I know Tijuana isn't exactly a tourist hot-spot, but that's where Mingus went! I guess "On the Surface". hovering between dream/hope/consciousness/fate, fits squarely in my long-running lyrical concerns.
And I'm not going to talk about "A Way Out".
Technical stuff. You'll note that the recorded and mixed locations are a tad unusual. When the project began I still had the studio at home and Crescent was still running in Bath. I'd made an early decision to work on each song individually, recording and mixing one by one rather than finishing the recording process and then doing the mix. (I chop and change between these methods to this day, incidentally.) So a couple of songs were finished at Sofa and mixed by David at Crescent. Then the studio had to close down (because of roadworks which would take a year...) and I took over the lease.This is the point at which Terra Incognita came into being, in the old Crescent premises. So subsequent stuff was both recorded and mixed there.
Simultaneously I changed my mixing desk and began using (quite primitive compared with the SSL which had been in Crescent) mix automation...and therefore increasingly began to oversee the entire engineering chain myself and alone. All of these were BIG MOVES.
"Ysabel" was also the first digital recording I made. David Lord had moved into his control room upstairs and we shared between us a coupe of X-80 stereo machines. We therefore decided to do this song as a one-take job...I played and sang to one machine and Stuart then overdubbed, also in one take, to the other. This was a whacky way of working, but authentic!
OH, I should say something about the systems music basis of "On the Surface". In (the modern classical form) systems music (in my understanding) a note sequence or rhythm is distended, altered, repeated,laid over itself to produce interference patterns. Like a riff viewed through a kaleidoscope. Elements f this approach have been there right back to VdGG, but this particular song is its most naked presentation, while still trying to make a "song"out of it. The chain of responsibility for the note pattern moves from one instrument to another in the course of the piece, but ~I think I'm right in saying that no one instrument ever plays it in its entirety...they're also changing round from playing forwards to backwards and so on....and it ends up more or less back where it started. Just some fun, y'know?
I hope all the above is of a measure of interest?

By the way, yes: "I believed all the words in the popular songs."
(the reference is to "Not the Man"....)

The above Artists's notes are, frankly, pretty unreliable and may be changed or edited at a moment's notice.
Only what you hear on the CD is to be taken as approaching the truth.