Ambient Post-Rock Avatars Transcend their Roots
Hear Hammock interviewed on Echoes Tonight 03/06/2013.
In an immersive experience where time loses meaning and there is no up nor down, it takes a quantum physicist’s sense of time and an astronaut’s sense of space to navigate. Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson are neither scientists nor pilots, but as Hammock they negotiate similar terrain in their sea of deep ambient guitar, enveloping washes of echoes, and intricate, shifting melodies.
On the double CD of Departure Songs, Hammock finds the center in the swirl whether it’s in the ambient expanse of “Cold Front” with its arpeggiated guitar balanced on forlorn cellos and reverb swirl or the following “Ten Thousand Years Won’t Save your Life” with its pounding drums and echoing female chorus. Each track on Departure Songs is an epic excursion, with languidly arcing strings merged into shimmering reverb, and delay-dipped guitars that contrast with charging drums and reverb-drenched screaming guitars. Beneath all that, listen for the uplifting brass on some tracks, the layered cellos of Matt Slocum on others and the angel-in-a-storm vocal choruses of Marc Byrd’s wife, Christina Glass Byrd. This is an album whose subtleties unfold with each loud listen.
Hammock emerged seven years ago out of a rock group called Common Children, who, if they hadn’t been marketed as a Christian rock group, they would’ve fit snugly between bands like Slowdive and The Cocteau Twins. When they formed Hammock, they shed the Christian imagery in favor of instrumental landscapes, sometimes purely ambient on Maybe They Will Sing for Us Tomorrow; often bringing in a rock energy on their 2010 Echoes CD of the Month pick, Chasing After Shadows… Living With Ghosts. Departure Songs is the most aggressive Hammock release to date with hellbent forays like “(Let’s Kiss) While All The Stars Are Falling Down” with its driving bass ostinato and swooping slides underpinning a chaos of guitars and whirlwind drums.. Yet, even here, there is still beauty and melancholy in their music.
Departure Songs is a meditation on the brevity of life. You may not be able to glean that from the reverb soaked and submerged vocals on the six vocal songs, but it becomes clearer when reading the printed lyrics included with the CD. “Tonight We Burn Like Stars That Never Die,” contemplates our existence against the stars that outlast us while “Words You Said… I’ll Never Forget You Now” is one of three songs exploring the pain of suicide.
Yet, rather than an album full of sadness and loss, Departure Songs is more about embracing the life you have now. And it’s done in symphonic dimensions, just with a lot of electric guitars in place of orchestral strings. Hammock has pulled out all the stops, along with every stomp box you can imagine, to create a definitive album.
~© 2012 John Diliberto ((( echoes )))
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