[sic] Magazine

Hammock – Mysterium

After last year’s Everything And Nothing (see Album Of The Year feature) Nashville ambient act Hammock make a surprisingly punctual reappearance with Mysterium. It is, however, a bittersweet return. With one bandmember having suffered heartbreaking family loss, Mysterium feels like an elegy of unresolved grief. Coming from a group who have seemingly always dealt with loss in their music (Departure Songs anyone?) this is already saying a lot. Yet aside from their Sleepover Series and parts of Oblivion Hymns, Mysterium is easily their most fragile and minimal work to date. You really feel for Byrd and Thompson on Mysterium. We’re a million miles away from the zappy, dreampop accessibility of Everything And Nothing. That album was a soaring triumph. Mysterium is more of a wordless eulogy. It is the musical equivalent to:_ ‘standing up in front of the congregation, choking back that lump in your throat, and struggling to make sense of anything let alone find the right words’.

And it is beautiful.

The obvious reference point is the aforementioned Oblivion Hymns. Something like ‘Holding Your Absence’ from the 2013 release will give you a sense of what to expect. I think Mysterium works better though. There’s more reverence here but less of that need for awe which occasionally tipped Oblivion Hymns toward Overblown And Ponderous Hymns. As a result, Mysterium feels genuinely sad rather than some monumental artifice. That said, it remains another whole album of entirely downtempo Hammock music which is brave and difficult to pull off. The only piece which even vaguely nods toward their joyous, optimistic side is ‘This Is Not Enough (Epilogue)’. The album’s closing track is supposed to convey the frustration and utter inability to convey their feelings at a time like this. However it’s also as though the band is assuring us that ‘normal service will be resumed’. No need. The duo clearly needed Mysterium as much as us.

Highlights include ‘I Would Give My Breath Away’, ‘For My Sister’ and ‘Things Of Beauty Burn’ yet the album is solid overall and stands up well against the bands already impressive back catalogue. If forced, I’d single out cinematic title track ‘Mysterium’ which easily stands alongside the film compositions of Hans Zimmer and Max Richter. Hammock are probably one BBC wildlife documentary away from becoming household names like their friends Sigur Rós. They deserve it.

Album Of The Year 2016

Hammock Online Store