Well into their second decade, ambient guitar duo Hammock (Andrew Thompson and Marc Byrd) can subtly surprise with a gorgeous string arrangement (Scattering Light) or play the Eno card so well (Mouth To Dust…Waiting) that it’s almost a given their albums will be great. Consistent, dependable. They make safe-places for ambient music fans to huddle and this is true of their most recent album, Universalis.
It’s all here – as it always is – the widescreen reveal that zeroes in to look so closely at something (the title track here is a fine example). There’s both comfort and detachment. Similar to what you get from an actual hammock, right?
The great skill of Hammock has always been that they can do the post-rock guitars of Jakob or Explosions In The Sky but they offer the movie-score motifs of Rhian Sheehan or Jóhann Jóhannsson – sometimes within the same piece of music even. They seem to have picked up where Stars of the Lid left things. Certainly this is true of recent albums and a straight line can be drawn through Oblivion Hymns, Mysterium and now Universalis.
It’s lovely, lilting, hypnotic mood-music. And, as with the very best of The Album Leaf there’s soft, caressing groove to the finest pieces (We Are More Than We Are) which elevate so subtly, never dominating. It’s a spiritually uplifting rise within the music – at its very best it feels philosophical. A warm bath of an album.
There’s nothing new here of course – but that’s also part of the magic trick. You’ve heard this line of music by Hammock already, but it feels just new enough, just different enough. That, ultimately, is their masterstroke.
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