Prog - - The Musical Box - AL

Ef­fort­lessly pow­er­ful LP from am­bi­ent clas­si­cal mas­ters.

Nashville duo Hammock have grown from a cult band into one of the most recog­nised and pop­u­lar am­bi­ent groups in the world, yet they’ve never quite as­cended to the heights of acts such as Sigur Ròs, and it’s not par­tic­u­larly clear why. With Universalis, their sev­enth record, they’ve dou­bled down on the or­ches­tral side of their sound, oc­ca­sion­ally to stun­ning ef­fect, as on opener Mouth To Dust… Wait­ing and dra­matic cli­max of the al­bum We Watched You Dis­ap­pear. Equally, they’re happy to coun­ter­point that with al­most con­certo-like med­i­ta­tions based around a sin­gle in­stru­ment, such as the cello-led ti­tle track. On past al­bums, there’s been an air of cel­e­bra­tion along­side the darker tex­tures, but on Universalis the mood is dark and mourn­ful and things barely lift be­yond the muted de­fi­ance and rous­ing slide gui­tars of Thirst. There’s also very lit­tle per­cus­sion – how­ever, that does mean that when a full drum kit is used on We Are More Than We Are, it’s breath­tak­ing. By the end of the LP, Universalis is al­most un­bear­ably sad, surely a sign of just how pow­er­ful their emo­tional heft is.

It’s a mas­ter­ful piece of work, but not for a sunny day.

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