You’ll note that I skipped one. 2012’s ALT was an interesting enough instrumental album, but nothing really to jump and shout about.

vdgg-maMerlin Atmos, recorded in 2013, is a live album featuring the trio line-up that had recorded ALT, A Grounding In Numbers, and Trisector. A such, it leans on these later albums,  It opens with Hammill’s solo epic Flight from the 1980 release A Black Box. It’s a proper full-side piece in multiple parts in the vein (sort of) of A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers (which takes up side 2 of Merlin Atmos‘ vinyl release).

There were two CD releases – a single and a double. The single includes the two epics and closes with a tight version of Hammill’s Gog, previously heard in a poor 1975 live recording as a bonus track on Still Life.

Disc one also features Lifetime and All That Before (Trisector) and Bunsho from A Grounding In Numbers.

It’s quite an interesting affair, a good balance of the old and the more recent trio work. It’s interesting that both this and Vital were recorded by lineups that weren’t the classic quartet. As such, David Jackson’s horns are especially missed on the older material. On the other hand, the recording is clean and the performances are as intense as one would expect.

The second disc (Bonus Atmos) features:

  • Interference Patterns, Over the Hill (Trisector)
  • Your Time Starts Now (A Grounding In Numbers)
  • Scorched Earth (Godbluff)
  • Meurglys III (World Record)
  • Man-Erg (Pawn Hearts)
  • Childlike Faith In Childhood’s End (Still Life)

They’ve been doing this work a long time and the renditions are generally tight. I think the solos, such as the keyboard adventure in the middle of Childlike Faith, seem a little tightly bound to the original versions. At two hours twenty, I don’t feel driven to compare the live tracks to their studio counterparts in the moment, but these versions are certainly satisfying. Hammill lets his vocals soar in a way he hasn’t on the recent studio recordings. I’d say it’s as good an introduction to their work as you’re likely to find.