Album of the Day: Hammock, “Universalis”

In the music that Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson make as Hammock, everything and nothing seems to happen at once. Like Stars of the Lid with a slight spring in their step, or Explosions in the Sky moving in slow motion, Hammock’s songs aren’t afraid to bask in the soft glow of their own beautiful melodies for whole minutes at a time.

Their last studio album, Mysterium, delved into abstract themes of death and grief; its follow-up, Universalis, is the second part of a planned trilogy and, as such, it begins to pull Hammock out of the darkness and into the light. Deeply felt details, like the melancholy vocal melodies in “Cliffside,” the swoon-worthy strings in “Mouth to Dust… Waiting,” and the melodramatic closing arc of “Tremendum,” offer glimmers of hope within the gloom. “Scattering Light” is a study in long exposure, a hushed bassline and tiny specks of guitar gradually joined by gentle violin and wreathed by quiet synths. And “We Watched You Disappear” blossoms slowly, strings building gradually, like morning light creeping in through the blinds. Maybe—just maybe—the trilogy’s final chapter will cast the ghosts aside for good.

Andrew Parks

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