[sic] Magazine

Hammock – Universalis

I remember with crystal clarity the first time that I heard Hammock. It was ‘The Air Between Us’ from early long player, Kenotic. A frisson went around my group of friends. “What’s the deal here?”; one challenged. “Those guitars”, came our reply. Since then the Nashville duo have built a superb catalogue of work. Their compositional pieces range from thrilling indietronica to more introspective ambiance.

Last time around Hammock gave us the deeply melancholic Mysterium, an album with themes entrenched in real life grief. Since Mysterium the band have taken the unusual step of releasing a couple of download-only ‘singles’. These ‘two track’ affairs plus the earlier Repeat Texture EP have more than tided the duo over throughout 2018. Indeed Byrd and Thompson also appear on the truly phenomenal collaboration The Summer Kills. (Doubtless to appear in more than one End of year round-up) That release has been a work in progress over many years rather than a signpost of the immediate Hammock headspace. What then of Universalis?

On first listen the latest album feels like a study in serenity. There are no swashbuckling gaze-pop numbers nor any inclination to move back in the direction of their Everything And Nothing LP. A series of quite beautiful videos have effectively trailed Universalis the most accessible of which is probably ‘Scattering Light’. As the second track on the album ‘Scattering Light’ functions rather like a hit single on a rock album allowing the listener an early foothold following the somewhat collegial intro, ‘Mouth To Dust… Waiting’. There’s an understated majesty to the rest of the record. The trio of ‘Always Before Your Eyes’, ‘We Are More Than We Are’ and ‘Tether of Yearning’ evokes some of Hammocks lesser known EP work such as ‘Dark Beyond The Blue’ and ‘Parkers Chapel’, brilliant pieces tucked away, almost hidden. Such music makes me feel like a privileged infiltrator sometimes but I don’t want that, for them. I don’t want Hammock to inhabit the ‘best kept secret’ space. Their name should be Universal, should be shorthand for the genres they span.

The title track is a nod back to the last album and poses the question, is Universalis a direct sequel to Mysterium? There are tonal similarities for sure, a favouring of hushed awe over pop accessibility. The geometric artwork also feels aligned. Yet this new collection is inherently more hopeful and reconciled than its predecessor. More at peace. (Witness the playful ‘Thirst’) If I’m right, then it makes me very happy indeed to see Messer’s Byrd and Thompson working out their sadness and moving on, moving more toward the light. Hammock have it within them to make another fully rounded album. One that blends each of their suits – the ambiance, the immediacy and of course the trademark epic majesty. The duo have not attempted such a collection since Departure Songs choosing instead a kind of segregation in their artistic presentation. In a way they’re too modest. They deserve the sort of planetary recognition shared by the likes of Sigur Rós and Mogwai. It’s time for Hammock to go big.

You are more than you are!


The Summer Kills

Album of 2016

Albums of 2017

Hammock Official Website