Instantly soothing, immediately calming, beautiful, almost overwhelming in its conveyance of a profoundly deep connection between the truly joyous and hugely sorrowful, yes it’s another album by Hammock. The ambient guitar duo from Nashville – Andrew Thompson and Marc Byrd – has done it again. And in my experience with their work this is most similar to 2013’s Oblivion Hymns. Which is no problem at all, that’s the Hammock album I felt most connected with…until Mysterium.
Look at that title – a conflation of the words ‘Mystery’ and ‘Requiem’.
You might find the right time for Mysterium is when you’re up at 5am trying to catch up on work or catch the moments before the sun lifts, you might still be up at 5am trying to support your eyelids for whatever reason. Or you’re in bed with this music on to soothe you into sleep, you’re driving or walking or drinking your favourite tea or wine or whatever…you’ll find your time to let this music find you. Again, for me, that’s always been the way with Hammock.
But once you know that this music – choral and with strings softly taking charge (the beautiful Things of Beauty Burn feels like the sort of sombre non-party that might occur if Eno and Harold Budd reworked Gorecki) – was informed by the loss of a young child then you know all the backstory necessary around the title (the sadness and mystery of it all being played out through a privately composed, publicly consumed form of requiem) then you’ll be able to make your decision around what place this music is going to take in your life; where you’re going to place it, how it’s going to work for you, what it might mean.
I’ve been listening to this album across the last months in the early-early hours or late-late-late, there’s a natural blur there, and many of my favourite moments of inspiration when listening to music occur in those spaces, either when I’m up far too late still or have decided to get up far too early. Hammock has always been (ha!) the perfect support.
So read more about the loss of Marc Byrd’s nephew and this album as a distillation of his grief. Or just dive in and listen.
But one informs the other. And as this album cautiously unfolds – it’s 20 minutes before you hear an actual vocal – there’s a huge sweep of sound that very nearly threatens to envelop, of course it’s caressing you. Let it. Hold it while you can. Get as close as you might. For this is magic. Yet another masterpiece.
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