Silencia completes a trilogy launched by the death of a loved one. 2017’s Mysterium was a tribute to Marc Byrd’s nephew Clark Kern and the ravages of grief; 2018’s Universalis looked upward, to transcendence and peace. Silencia honors silence, not as the space between tracks but as the absence of noise and dissonance. This chapter seeks synthesis, daring to travel one last time through the ruins of grief (as reflected in the titles) and circling back to the start (“Without Form and Void”).
To no one’s surprise, it’s another beautiful Hammock album; but it feels hard-earned, the emotions stemming from an abundance of experience. The absence of words is more powerful than the well-meaning and misspoken. The choir hints at spiritual themes without the stigma of religion. The strings suggest the striving of saints.
The album reflects the positive aspects of silence: not stunned silence, but purposeful silence, as practiced by the friends of Job, who sat for days without attempting to solve an unsolvable problem. This is the silence of the penitent, who searches inward for any sign of transgression; the silence of awe in the face of great beauty; the silence of unearned grace. Instead of asking, “Why is God silent?”, this music says, “I will be silent and listen for God.”
The title track begins with light static but ends with light choir, a rising chord implying slow revelation. The duo has traveled this road together along with their friends. They’ve seen how the passage of time can alter attitudes and appreciations; on a wider scale, they’ve witnessed a world that worships noise as it continues to spiral from its center. Reflecting everything from monks to mindfulness, the album offers an alternative to bustle and bruise: the fullness of now. If now includes regret and anger, so be it. If now is filled with joy and laughter, even better. Be silent; be still; be present.
In the album’s direct center, the melodies dissolve to a swirl. “In the Shattering of Things” is the linchpin, quietly allowing the mood to turn. Soon the choirs will reappear; the chords will begin to brighten. It’s not that everything is blessed or good, but that all of life is accepted, incorporated, absorbed: every gain and loss, every beam of light and drop of rain. As Raymond Carver writes,
And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
Hammock doesn’t tell us what silence is; they compose music to show us how silence feels. “We Try to Make Sense of It All,” they write ~ but they cannot. Instead they encounter a greater mystery. Winding backwards through time, pre-speech, pre-light, they encounter the indescribable, and realize that their atoms were there, even then; even in the silence of space, they were never as isolated as they feared. (Richard Allen)