Hammock: Chasing After Shadows...Living With the Ghosts
While Hammock's third album, 2008's Maybe They Will Sing for Us Tomorrow, stripped Hammock's sound back to its bare minimum with Andrew Thompson and Marc Byrd Byrd recording its rhythm-less tracks using only electric guitars and pedal boards, the follow-up, Chasing After Shadows…Living with the Ghosts, moves in the opposite direction, and we're all the better for it doing so. The album's multi-layered, shoegaze-rich sound is a thing of beauty indeed, and fits naturally alongside recordings by Robin Guthrie and Sigur Rós.
The album's twelve settings are like instrumental mini-cathedrals teeming with pealing guitar melodies, atmospheric washes, strings, pianos, acoustic drums, and an occasional vocal. The album is charged with emotion, as chiming melodies soar continually upwards, aiming for transcendance. Chasing After Shadows…Living with the Ghosts' epic tone is immediately set by “The Backward Step,” a towering five minutes of shoegaze guitars, cellos, and drums, and, though there are subtle deviations in tempo and dynamics in the eleven tunes that come after, they generally follow the opener's lead. Adding a wordless, high-pitched vocal motif to “Breathturn” pushes the lilting track—not unwelcomingly—into Sigur Rós territory for six dazzling minutes, and vocals also surface during the hymnal nine-minute splendour of “You Lost the Starlight in Your Eyes.” At times, the drums sit out completely, leaving a track such as “How Can I Make You Remember Me?” to unspool like a humming mass of guitar-generated vapours.
If there's a weakness, it's that oh-so-familiar one of length. At seventy-two minutes, the album could withstand some judicious editing—a sleepy mid-album track such as “Andalusia” a candidate, perhaps?—to bring it down to a more concise fifty- to fifty-five-minute running time. For the record, the release also is available in a deluxe version with the CD accompanied by a book collaboration with photographer Thomas Petillo, a hardback volume North West East South that features an ambient EP containing four songs and 100 images Petillo shot while on four trips with Hammock between 2005-09.