Hammock have been one of those groups that I have intended to deep dive for sometime. Prior to this release my only real interaction I had with the Nashville duo was a compilation called “An Introduction to Hammock” which from memory was a short lived sampler download from their bandcamp page which compiled tracks from some of their albums. I got stuck and kept listening to the post rock inspired track “The Air Between Us” and should have really investigated further, for then I wouldn’t have had such a shock when hearing “Silencia” and it’s orchestral nature. The orchestral style of music that they have explored is evident on albums like the soundtrack to The film “Columbus” as well as the trilogy that “Silencia” finishes up.
“Silencia” is the latest collection of evocative and lustrous compositions by the Nashville duo Hammock. The band’s 10th lp, “Silencia” closes a trilogy that began with 2017’s “Mysterium”. Slow-churning and contemplative, “Silencia” most prominently features strings orchestrated by Viktor Orri Árnason (Nils Frahm, Ólafur Arnalds), mists of guitar by Hammock’s Mark Byrd and Andrew Thompson , the hushed drone of horns, and 20 elegiac voices from the Budapest Art Choir. The album was mixed and mastered by Francesco Donadello (A Winged Victory For The Sullen, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Ben Frost) in Berlin.”
The origin of the Mysterium / Universalis / Silencia trilogy is the passing of Mark Byrd’s nephew Clark Kern and the resultant albums explored the theme’s of death and grief (“Mysterium”), light and hope (“Universalis”), while “Silencia” is about stillness and reflection. According to Byrd, in an interview with Ryan Burleson stated that “Mysterium” was about a shattering” Byrd says. “Universalis”, the trilogy’s second record, was an attempt to put things back together , and “Silencia” reflects a quiet resolution of knowing that this is what life is. You have to live in the midst of both”
Utilising the talents of mixer/master Francesco Donadello (A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Ben Frost), The Budapest Art Choir (who really come into effect on the track “Afraid to Forget”) and the orchestrated strings of Viktor Orri Árnason (Nils Frahm, Ólafur Arnalds), some of whom have been involved within the whole trilogy. By keeping this core of people Byrd and Thompson have managed to see a vision for the trilogy realised. The titles of tracks featured over the course the trilogy have reflected the overall themes, from “When The Body Breaks” and “Remembering Our Bewildered Son” on “Mysterium” to “We Are More Than We Are” and “Scattering Light” on “Universalis” and finally “We Try To Make Sense Of It All” and “Slowly You Dissolve” on “Silencia”. With such a mammoth undertaking it’s probably best to investigate all three albums.
As I mentioned before about my previous experience when it comes to Hammock’s music, I was rather taken back by the music featured on “Silencia”. Rather than the Ambient tinged Post Rock I was expecting, instead I find myself washed over by music that comes together at the apex interaction of Ambient and Modern Classical where the strings are integral to the droning ambient qualities. It’s at this place in music where genre lines can be blurred and instead a form of music with a pure emotion can take place with the way that the styles combine.
As there is such a strong theme to the music on the album it makes the process of doing track by track review some what redundant. The best method is to engage with it in a single sitting with as less outside distractions as possible. Byrd and Johnson alongside their collaborators have a way of making pieces that are as gentle as they are moody, as melancholic as they are hopeful and as cinematic as they are intimate. The pieces are slow paced and glacial at times which gives the music an opportunity to breathe and grow organically. If you were to describe the music as a colour it would be the same as used on the album art (which incidentally is real blue rain water) and like the music of the trilogy the colours and designs of each album’s covers reflect the moods of their pieces. The drones of the title track are quite evocative as the cut through the almost squally ambience, giving the piece that felt like it was about to float a way, an earthy grounding. the slow pace that I just mentioned is evident on the piece “It hurts to remember” which conveys the feelings of the title in the weight of emotions within the music. Multilayered at times it feels barely there and at others it feels like it’s just about to break the surface and the emotions will be spilt. The drones feel like vapour trails while the strings are controlled and repetitive, containing the feeling. If you were to pick a piece in isolation to offer someone the way to convey something so deeply personal to an audience, then this particular track would have no challengers. It’s epically beautiful, heartfelt and a little harrowing. Don’t get me talking about the piece “Saudade” and the way that the title, music and mood are all wrapped up like a perfect parcel.
Sometimes music is bigger than words. It helps to know the intention behind the pieces, but after that they in a way become redundant because in some cases with art such as these, words merely become a redundant form when listening to such breath taking beauty. If you are Hammock fan and have been following their career and this trilogy you will love this. If you are relatively new to their oeuvre, then sit back and be transported to a special place. “Silenceia” is available on LP, CD and Digital from November 15 and is very much one of the album’s of the year, in my humble opinion. Totally recommended.
Video by Jasper Lee.