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.