Oblivion Hymns is alive, an open, living structure of sound that oozes from the soul’s echo chamber. The rush of sound instantly drops the veil we wear when we are troubled, tired or afraid, yielding to the brute ambient force. The susceptible face that lurks behind the cloak has been hurt before, but the running river is a kind flow, with ambient swells and orchestral strings calling you to surrender – it’s alright.
The chamber is usually a secret place, reserved for the sensitivities of the heart. Oblivion Hymns is a charged and chilled spectacle, glowing with white lights and a deep, emotional electricity; a direct current flowing straight from the echo chamber. Their music resounds powerfully with the soul and crushes kindly with soft optimism and vague heartbreak.
In the vault, sustained echoes reverberate off the cushioned atmosphere, repeating with a continuous, red-blooded pulse, the angled rhythm of the strings moving to and fro in time with the resurfacing of distant memories, once thought to be buried. In a great flood, the emotions of the soul gush out. Hammock are well versed in ambient and post-rock music, and in one respect Oblivion Hymns is no different than their earlier music, in that it is deeply thoughtful, expertly arranged and stunning in its beauty. It’s set to become a classic. Oblivion Hymns is mature, focusing more on the classical side, which brings with it an increased cinematic quality.
‘My Mind Was A Fog…My Heart Became A Bomb’ opens gently, letting the ambient tones settle and sink. Serene ambient swells rise up and then cascade downwards in a beautiful fountain. Then, the first note rises out from the depths – the sound of the strings – and we quickly realize that Hammock’s sound has aged like a fine wine, raising the bar to a whole new level. With its rocketing dynamics, the piece rises to a head – waiting to explode – leaving trails of ambient dust sprinkled over the fading music.
The guitars link up to the washed out chain of effects, just as they always have. The deep bass notes are slow motion splashes of reverb that blossom, or explode, on impact with the ocean. The reverb is so wet it’s destined for the fathoms, the running river returning to the soul. For the majority, though, the guitars play secondary to the strings, adding a wash of colour to the water painting in between the powerful strokes. Universal delays and infinite amounts of reverb – never allowed to decay – collide with colossal intensity, and are now joined by a string quartet, a children’s choir, accordion, French horn and a glockenspiel. This opens up their sound further still, so much so that it lies there unprotected, finally ready to reveal its true beauty after all these years; ready to drop the mask, ready to trust.
The compositions gradually unfold with care, but they are positively charged with bright lights, brave hope and calm introspection. Under the cool sun, the music is fluid, alternating between brighter string swells and the occasional shadows of a piano. Trained in the art of reverb, Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson bathe their music in unity, the slow-burning artistry perfected, until the deeply flowing texture drips with a delectable, harmonic honey.
‘Like A Valley With No Echo’ gradually develops into something spectacular, illuminating the music with some soaring strings and a lower, grounded bass to care for them, holding on to keep them from floating sky high. Hammock use the images of nature to draw out the wonder and the majesty of the Earth, aligning their music with the theme of water; equally soothing and threatening, still and severely dangerous, the sound is as pure and as dazzling as the ocean’s life-sustaining water and the plethora of living creatures who call it home.
The river runs deep, towards its destination. In ‘I Could Hear The Water At The Edge Of All Things’, the calm ambient undulations reach the rocky cliff; the strings stand on the cusp of a rushing waterfall, picking up the intense surf and the roar of the water. It’s as loud as a torpedo, as loud as a bomb. They gaze down from the precarious precipice, ready to plunge. The jump (the sound of the choir) rubs away at the billowing wind, until there is nothing left but the sound of total surrender, the armistice of falling.
‘Hope Becomes A Loss’ slows down in its sadness. The contemplative, head-bowed melody is disrupted by a vocal transmission, coming from faraway as if on a distant radio, dissolving like acid, eating away at companionship and replacing it with loneliness as the music fades away. We are left with ‘Tres Domine’, the triumphant coda. An ode to the soul, and to the journey we’ve been through, the vocal is left breathing the clear, mountain air. Oblivion Hymns is the sound of the soul, and the state of flux it finds itself in; through conflicts and in times of peace. It’s alright, remember. With outstretched arms, the music calls you to come home: oblivion is waiting.