Hammock: Longest Year
Hammock Music

Aided by cellist Matt Slocum, Nashville, Tennessee-based Hammock members Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson bring into being a thirty-three-minute EP follow-up to their distinguished Chasing After Shadows… Living With the Ghosts full-length. Their Longest Year EP (the title in part a reference to the experience of living through challenges like Byrd's house being partially destroyed by the Nashville Flood) finds the group in deep ambient soundscaping mode, full stop. Drums are absent from the recording—Hammock's fourth EP and ninth release, it turns out—and so too are conventional rhythm and tempo. As a result, the five tracks (two of them, in fact, improvised) register as haunting guitar-based meditations of a celestial character that naturally invites a song title such as “Lonely, Some Quietly Wander in the Hall of Stars.”

In the opening title track, an initial cello rises through a guitar-laced haze until it's joined by an even more plaintive second one as the music slowly swells, growing in grandeur as piano chords appear to deepen the sound mass further. Hammock here gives a master class in slow build, as the music inches forward unhurriedly until it becomes an epic, guitar-laden mass of awesome proportion. Rather than deviating from the opening track's mood, “Dark Beyond the Blue” carves out a similar stylistic path in its slow-motion unfurl of ambient guitar textures, while the EP's middle track, “Cruel Sparks,” allows distortion to enter the picture without destroying the mood so delicately established in the opening cuts. Here and in the subsequent piece, “Lonely, Some Quietly Wander in the Hall of Stars,” electric guitars swell into ethereal masses in a manner that invites the label shoegaze-ambient. A triumphant yet wistful main theme arcs across shimmering washes during the closing “One Another,” with Slocum's cello eventually surfacing to add to the ever-intensifying mass of grandiose sound. What it all adds up to is a near-perfect statement of majestic design whose half-hour duration feels just right. Transcendence, it appears, is just a click away.

January 2011