Review Summary: “Under endless clouds…”
Hammock is a musical duo, which may come as a surprise given the wide range of instrumentation that grows as the years have gone by. Recently enhancing their moments of contemplative soundscapes into the main style was a risky move to say the least. Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson’s style of choice is one that is prone to bore and grow stale if not executed in just the right way. However, the duo has shown time and time again that they possess a full command of their post-rock and ambient sensibilities, emphasizing the latter in recent years by setting the guitars aside.
Predecessor Oblivion Hymns
and the re-issues of The Sleep-Over Series
fully embraced the more minimalist side of Byrd and Thompson’s sound. While great releases, they lacked the aural diversity that prevailed so well in records like Raising Your Voice…
and Departure Songs
. In a somewhat surprising move, this latest from Hammock features the most percussion and vocals of any album they’ve ever recorded. “We Were So Young” sees Byrd passionately singing of nostalgic musings relating to the optimism of youth. The abstract reflections are central to Everything and Nothing
, with vocals and lyrics impressively embodying much of the album’s depth. “Dissonance” and “She Was in the Field Counting Stars” share similar themes of bittersweet longing, with male and female vocals interplaying gorgeously. However, much of the album’s focus lies in fuzzy shoegazing and uplifting guitars. The aural beauty of Oblivion Hymns
is retained, only this time they’ve added a rock band.
The return of guitars for Hammock is certainly a welcome change, as Byrd and Thompson always use them to maximum effect. As before, the airy melodies mesh with the dreamy atmospheres seamlessly. Forays into dream pop like “Glassy Blue,” “We Could Have Been Beautiful Again,” and the uplifting title track make up many of the album highlights. These hazy, cathartic ballads bring to mind the likes of Slowdive, while the moments of driving percussion and vocals recall the likes of The Smiths and The Cure. Pure ambience is hardly ever prevalent for more than a few minutes at a time, but interludes do exist to break the almost 20-track album apart. Like any other Hammock release, the calming, drifty tempos are still utilized here, but challenged quite a few times. One such example lies in “Burning Down the Fascination,” with vast canyons of low end courtesy of three layered bass guitars for grinding riffs throughout. A surprising move for Hammock in an album full of them, along with the pseudo-90’s rock vocals in the aforementioned indie song “We Were So Young.”
Despite the forays into new territory for the duo, much of Everything and Nothing
revels in solemn tributes, a la “Marathon Boy” and the emotional “Reverence.” The neoclassical elements of recent releases have been stripped back, but the use of violins remains central to the emotional impact. “Turn Away and Return,” “Reverence,” “Wasted We Stared At The Ceiling, and “I Will Become the Ground You Walk On” simply would not express the poignancy that they do without the violins. Hammock utilize string instruments perfectly as always, with the guitar-driven tracks being the most immediately memorable, especially with the newly prevalent vocals. These compositional strengths shine in the most satisfying ways throughout, with live instrumentation, electronic beats, and droning guitars convalescing together wholeheartedly. Ultimately, Everything and Nothing
is an emotional journey fraught with pain, bittersweet, conflicting emotions, and glorious catharsis. Hammock continue to evolve in refreshing displays of mournful, yet also uplifting explorations, always making the voyage unexpected and sincere.