Peter Michael Hamel – Hamel
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This is it, folks. This is one of the Vertigo swirl records I’ve been looking for since I first laid eyes on it back in the early days of 2008. At the time it was being sold for $250 (and it was about as close to mint condition as you’re going to find when it comes to a German 1970 Vertigo swirl). Since I am not — nor have I ever been — made of money, I could not afford it. I believe it has since been reissued by one of those labels like Guerssen or 4 Men With Beards, but as much as I love those labels it defeats the whole purpose of scouring record bins for the original pressings. Call me a purist or a snob or whatever, there’s nothing like a true first pressing.
The Vertigo Swirl website (a must bookmark site if ever one existed) grades this an R3 on the rarity scale. It was the first Vertigo swirl issued in Germany in 1970. The amazing cover design was done by Guntram Holdgrun, and the album was produced by Hamel and Ulrich Kraus. The website states, “Hamel is a classical composer with a strong interest in electronic devices and non-European cultures. He doesn’t consider his music to consist of sets of composed notes, but rather looks upon them as ‘radiations’. Travels to India were a major influence on his music. This here double album is nothing more or less than a series of treated keyboard sounds, often with the use of prepared instruments to produce non-European tone intervals. Some percussive passages emerge, also played on prepared keyboards, such as the uncannily gamelan-alike “Baliava I”. Some pieces show an influence of minimal music and only very slowly develop into different directions. Anyone wanting to listen to the whole of this opus must bring a lot of time. Whether or not this conglomeration of styles still stands up after almost half a century depends upon your point of view. At the time of release, this record harvested heaps of praise from ‘serious’ aficionados of music. To us this may sound very dated, indeed. Images of orange bathtubs and olive green automatic coffee-makers keep popping up. As seventies as it gets.
The scary front cover image belies the meditative character of the music. The colours are screaming at you, the forms and patterns suggest an alien mind. This goes on on the back and inside the gatefold, where also a picture of the man himself is on display. Yes, he wears an Afghan coat and a scarf around his long-haired head, what did you think he would wear? The lettering is in stark contrast to the images: an interplay of black and white lines in various gauges, but fits well to the underlying rigidity of the main image.”
Peter Michael Hamel
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