One of the ambient/post-rock field’s few “big name acts”, Hammock has helped to popularize the modern instrumental scene, as the duo’s music has been used to promote events ranging from the Winter Olympics to the Super Bowl. When an act becomes this popular, the pressure mounts. The duo has responded by upping the ante, adding “a string quartet, children’s choir, accordion, French horn, glockenspiel and more”. Reading these words, one wonders if the new album will even sound like Hammock; fortunately, it does.
The new richness in tone is apparent from the fullness of the very first track, on which the string quartet cuts through a euphoric fog, reflecting the title (“My Mind Was a Fog…My Heart Became a Bomb”). One realizes that the duo is not going to throw every new instrument in at once. This is not, for example, a “children’s choir album”; one will hear them only twice, on the exquisite “I Could Hear the Water at the Edge of All Things” and “Then the Quiet Explosion”. The video for the former joins “Mono No Aware” and “Breathturn” as a Hammock classic. The white-out photography at the end serves as a metaphor for the main character, the track title and the album as a whole. These are Oblivion Hymns, scoring the descent or ascent into the life or death that is to come. The string quartet is a fitting match for the subject matter, as is the children’s choir. Together they convey a mingled sense of innocence, transcendence, and longing.
The strings bear the weight of nearly every song, but they are up to the task. The songs unfurl gently and burst slowly, more like morning flowers than fireworks. Closing track “Tres Domine” brings a light surprise with the presence of gentle vocals and a triumphant trumpet that counteracts the lyrics: “My soul’s become undone, my soul it just won’t heal”. The music indicates that it has, or will; it’s an uplifting ending to a pensive, yearning album. Those who purchase Oblivion Hymns will also receive bonus tracks “Sleep” and “Cathedral”, which fit perfectly with the timbre and theme of the rest of the album. The final minute of “Sleep” is especially elegiac. But when making a playlist, we recommend keeping “Tres Domine” in the coda spot, as its elegance cannot be topped. Hammock has taken a firm step forward with this album; old fans will be pleased, while new ones may be mesmerized as well. (Richard Allen)
“Hammock has taken a firm step forward with this album; old fans will be pleased, while new ones may be mesmerized as well.”
I completely agree. I’ve been a fan of Hammock for a long while now, and I was extremely pleased with Oblivion Hymns. One of the biggest truths I can say about the album is that it is much more firm in terms of production. It packs a bigger punch than say, ‘Raising Your Voice… Trying To Stop An Echo’.
The only “qualm” I have about the album is that they said in an interview they did with Headphone Commute (I believe) that this would be ‘Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomrrow’ on steroids. Perhaps they decided to take it a different direction artistically, but I was expecting something along the lines of MTWSFUT.
Other than that, I was blown away. The first listen through, many of the tracks had me in tears. Very cinematic music. I cannot wait until the next volume of The Sleepover Series!
I agree with both of you. Good review. Very emotional album.
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The tracks “In the Middle of this Nowhere”, “Like a Valley with no Echo”, and “I Could Hear the Water at the Edge of all Things” made me cry copiously more than once. Unbelivably beautiful masterpieces, just like the album itself. Eternal gratitude!
Like A Valley is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I have ever heard. Just stunning.
Who in the world is this choir (young children?) you’re using? And is there a stem of only that part? This song opens up more tear canals than.. anything else 😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢