Reviews 4-30-2016

Music Reviews 



Everything and Nothing

by Hammock

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 It's been over a decade since Hammock released their debut album Kenotic, and three years since their last album Oblivion Hymns. The latest incarnation of their personal and musical journey has all the usual guitar sonics you'd expect from them but is arguably the most “mainstream” sounding Hammock album. Perhaps this is because it reflects their now “hopeful” mindset after the heavier sentiments of the previous two albums. All the expected elements are still there on Everything and Nothing – fans of the duo's work will not be disappointed. It's a long album of 20 tracks (4 of which are bonus tracks), and in Marc Byrd's words (the other half of the duo is Andrew Thompson) is part of an ongoing exercise in letting go. 

Opening the album is the sweet and atmospheric Turn Away and Return. Distant guitar licks and a minimalist rhythm gradually build while many of the typical Hammock elements such as cello and ethereal vocals are a little reminiscent of the otherworldly vibe of work by Jónsi Birgisson from Sigur Ros. 

The introspective piece Marathon Boy marks a slight departure from the norm where a piano with a simple yet affecting melody of few notes leads throughout. As crystalline pads drift about and muted guitar refrains add texture the track builds to a peak before easing off. Musically understated, it exemplifies Hammock's bewitching ability to evoke feelings and emotions in the careful listener. 

The titular track starts off with twangy bassy notes and a soft beat. A buzzing sound then slides to and fro across the soundscape and a guitar melody kicks in. Bright refrains, upbeat drums and trademark sheets of guitar coupled with vocals give a sense of an epiphanic rebirth. It's one of their most accessible tracks – one that I'd recommend to someone unfamiliar with the band. Call it soft rock, shoegazer rock, whatever you want, it's pointless trying to categorise Hammock's sound which in my experience is unique. 

For me the one let down was feeling a little cheated by some pieces. Burning Down the Fascination starts like several of their ambient tracks on previous albums. Glassy guitar lines undulate and you think it's going to remain that way then suddenly the track bursts into rock mode with driving drums and guitars and “woo hoo” style vocals. Yes, it is very enjoyable and competes with (Tonight) We Burn Like Stars that Never Die on Departure Songs for being one of their most gung ho tracks, but defying expectations at the start is jarring if you're hoping for an ambient piece. 

Who could not fall in love with Hammock's music? They're alchemists who imbue what on casual inspection are cold, icy and melancholy sounds with a gamut of emotion. As ever with their albums, this is music for the slow lane, to savour with one's full attention ideally on a good hi-fi or through quality headphones. I suspect it'll have a wider appeal than the rest of their canon while staying true to the spirit of Hammock.

Reviewed by Dene Bebbington for Ambient Visions