Genre : Ambient, Post-rock
1. Longest Year
2. Dark Beyond the Blue
3. Cruel Sparks
4. Lonely, Some Quietly Wander in the Hall of Stars
5. One Another
The Nashville ambient band Hammock have had a strange and somewhat tragic year. In May, the first floor of co-founder Marc Byrd’s home was buried in rain water and debris, as the city endured an epic 100-year flood that wreaked havoc across Middle Tennessee. Then, on September 11th, a day that will forever be disquieting, the band was informed minutes before they took the stage in Hot Springs, AR that a man had been beaten to death not far from the club where they were to perform. Tragedy is a part of life, to be sure, but token phrases have yet to inoculate humans from the pain and confusion that tragedy can bring. Faced with misfortune, most of us bury our heads in the sand or medicate ourselves through dubious means. Conversely, Byrd, Andrew Thompson and regular collaborator Matt Slocum retreat to the studio, where for six years they’ve honed an otherworldly, cathartic sound they refer to as “Southern ambient.” It is among the South’s storied expanses that they find solace and redemption, a feeling that is easily telegraphed in their music.
Perhaps obvious at this point, the band titled their latest EP Longest Year because of the aforementioned trials they endured in 2010. And, though there are brief moments of wistfulness and melancholy found within its 32-minute run-time — thankfully, ambient artists are always bent on consumers getting their money’s worth — Longest Year transmits more hope and transcendence than any amount of darkness gleaned from the title. Like the Thomas Petillo photograph included with the release, the land (or, life, in the middle of tumult) may seem barren, but some choose to perceive this “death” as a new beginning. One gets the sense from these five songs that Byrd, Thompson and Slocum are of this mindset, men wise enough to discern what’s truly worth losing sleep over. Or, more importantly, what can be discerned about oneself or one’s impermanence in the midst of trouble.
Musically, Hammock is a band that trades in the slightest of nuances. To the impatient, this equates to each of their releases — there are nine total since 2004 — sounding roughly the same: Slow, dense, shadowy and possibly outright boring. Frankly, this music isn’t even meant for most modern, iPod-toting listeners (though, undoubtedly, they could be converted). Rather, as best heard on their most recent LP, Chasing After Shadows… Living With the Ghosts, Hammock (as the name infers) is a band worth taking in as a whole. Their work is experiential, crafted to soundtrack more than mere moments, but entire afternoons spent lost in thought or quaint appreciation for some surrounding beauty. Moreover, its impressionistic enough for you to find your own meaning within — album and song titles are the only words invoked to dictate feeling — but, it can’t be ignored that this music reflects its creators’ sober optimism about the world around them.