Review Summary: Hammock's second LP, even though one of their most unpopular, is definitely one of their best. A true ambient masterpiece for both the band and the genre."There are times when the need to create a thing begins to interrupt your life. And if you don't give in to it, everything else starts to suffer." - Marc Byrd
When people hear the word "hammock," the first thing that should come to their minds is, well, a hammock. They may imagine themselves lying on one while swaying back and forth, slowly and peacefully. Some might have their eyes open, watching the clouds as they gradually make their way from one end of the horizon to the other and the birds that soar beneath them; others’ eyes will be closed as they indulge in the relaxing feel they pick up from the perpetual motion. But what would their ears detect? Would it be the sound of the birds above them chirping? The wind that carries the clouds across the sky? Music? If it's music that they hear, it would most likely be something that either blends in with the surrounding atmosphere or completes it. This sound is something along the lines of the music on Hammock's second LP, The Sleepover Series Vol. 1
Hammock formed from the ashes of Common Children, an alternative Christian rock band that disbanded in 2002. Vocalist Marc Byrd and guitarist Andrew Thompson, both past members of Common Children, got together on occasion and began to write music, which eventually led to the release of their 2005 debut album Kenotic
. Influenced by artists such as The Verve and Stars of the Lid, the album was a brilliant hybrid of post-rock and ambient music filled with 16 diverse uplifting songs. Shortly after, the duo released Stranded Under Endless Sky
, an EP of four songs similar to those found on Kenotic
. By this point, Hammock had established their signature sound as a certain type of post-rock / ambient blend. Because of this, their 2006 sophomore LP The Sleepover Series Vol. 1
was a drastic change in direction for the band. This record contained no trace of vocals, guitars, a bass, a drumset, or any formal instrument for that matter. The Sleepover Series Vol. 1
was exempt of any post-rock material present on their previous releases and contained nothing but pure drone-influenced ambience.
While The Sleepover Series Vol. 1
was mostly a musical side-project of band member Marc Byrd, the album was released (and is regarded) as a Hammock album. On this album, Byrd managed to compose and create a collection of beautiful tracks that piece together perfectly to create the wondrous experience it is. The album starts off with the dark, melancholic "Moon Through the Branches." While it is definitely the weakest link on the entire album, it does nothing to taint the beauty of the music. In fact, "Moon Through the Branches" can be thought of as necessary to the rest of the album, getting listeners started and preparing them all the while for the ambient journey they are about to embark on. "Moon Through the Branches" segues into the album's second track, "Empty Page / Blue Sky," which is the most powerful song to appear on the record. It is also the most familiar track to Hammock, which makes sense since this is the only song on The Sleepover Series Vol. 1
to include contributions from Hammock's other half, Andrew Thompson. "Empty Page / Blue Sky" is all the more engaging in comparison to its preceder and includes a much emptier, lonesome sound. The album's darkest and most mysterious track, "Dropping Off," is a heavily drone-influenced song that contains all different sorts of unexpected noises that make it one of the most interesting and, strangely enough, relaxing songs on The Sleepover Series Vol. 1
If they had found the need to, Hammock could have easily split the record into two parts. "Just Before Breathing" acts as somewhat of a special midpoint for the album, as every song before it is much gloomier than those that follow. "Just Before Breathing" in and of itself is much more uplifting and bears an open, spacy feel that a listener could easily meditate to as long as they do not let the lingering issue of low-budget production quality affect their perception of the music. The 24-minute-plus "Still Point" is probably the perfect example of a meditation track that can be found on The Sleepover Series Vol. 1
. The song itself was actually inspired by a book written by John Daido Loori entitled Finding the Still Point
that discusses Buddhist meditation and finding one's Zen. When the album closes, it does so in the most necessary way to finish the listener's experience. "No Stopping the Sea" is probably the simplest yet most uplifting song on the album next to "Still Point" and offers a much less intense sound as compared to some of the other songs on the record.
So what makes Hammock's second LP and Marc Byrd's first "solo" project the masterpiece it is? Once it all comes down to it, it's a combination of factors. The album's beautiful ambience / drone sound that creates a certain type of consistency essential for the album to be as epic as it turned out to be is a perfect example. Another great example is, while The Sleepover Series Vol. 1
remains consistent throughout, the tracks it holds are all diverse amongst themselves. Each song is unique by its lonesome, whether it's because of the fire-crackling and mechanical sounds found on "Dropping Off," the chirping of birds on the melodic "Still Point," the lonely feeling that "Empty Page / Blue Sky" offers, or the ever so faint chimes audible on "No Stopping the Sea." With its darker, thought-provoking parts mixed in with its happier, soothing parts, Marc Byrd (and Andrew Thompson) has created a masterpiece for the band. Though it may not have been their initial goal, Hammock surely make the type of music one would like to hear when relaxing on a hammock with The Sleepover Series Vol. 1
. This is a collection of songs that, when put together and listened to from start to finish, should, and hopefully will, strike anybody as a truly phenomenal music experience.