EPs / Cassettes / Mini-Albums / Singles
Hammock: The Sleepover Series, Volume One
As its title suggests, The Sleepover Series, Volume One represents something of a side-trip for Hammock duo Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson. In contrast to the symphonic grandeur of recent outings such as Chasing After Shadows… Living with the Ghosts (2010), Departure Songs (2012), and Oblivion Hymns (2013) that witnessed Byrd and Thompson amplifying Hammock's guitar-centered core with strings, horns, children's choir, drums, and vocals, The Sleepover Series, Volume One restricts its sound palette to guitars and guitar-generated textures. Its genesis can be traced to a 2005 sleepover event for which the duo composed music, the idea being that Hammock's live guitars would ease the audience into a sleep state. In simplest terms, it's an hour-long ambient soundscaping set whose six tracks are dominated by two long-form settings, the first fifteen minutes and the second almost twenty-five.
It's not the recording's first appearance, by the way: originally released in early 2006 and pitched as “an undiscovered highlight in the Hammock catalog,” this reissue arrives in a newly remastered form by Taylor Deupree and with new artwork by Pete Schulte. The first of the two long-form pieces, “Dropping Off,” rolls out in an epic, droning wave of shadowy detail and ambient textures, its cloud-like masses midwifed by guitars and augmented with all manner of phantom noise and cavernous reverb, and the sound mass swells and contracts with a kind of controlled aggression that's considerably more muscular than the ambient norm. The swirling colossus that is “Just Before Breathing” likewise asserts itself with an equal degree of strength and wilfulness; at such moments, one begins to question who might possibly be able to drift off to sleep when the sound is so engulfing.
The second extended setting, “Still Point,” which belies its title in the forward motion that relentlessly propels it onward, situates itself at a slightly quieter level, though even here the material is hardly what one would call sleep-inducing—hypnotic or spellbinding is more like it. In this case, the music unfurls in the form of a blurry, softly whistling howl inside of which faint traces of bird chirps and other micro-sounds appear. Being a bit of a side-trip, The Sleepover Series, Volume One isn't admittedly representative of Hammock's sound in its current established form, though it is certainly a recording that fans of the group should find satisfying enough. The reissue, by the way, arrives at a good time, given the projected August 2014 release of volume two.