Hammock ~ Love in the Void

Touted as “Hammock‘s loudest album to date,” Love In the Void lives up to its billing with shoegaze guitars, post-rock crescendos and a plethora of drums.  But make no mistake; Love in the Void is still throughly Hammock.  On this album,  Slow Meadow/Matt Kidd (string arrangements), Ellen Story (violin and viola), Jake Finch (drums) Lumenette/Christine Byrd (vocals) and Chad Howat (additional synths) join Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson to score a story of struggle and potential triumph.

One might call this the third phase of the modern Hammock, the duo reaching their 20th anniversary this year.  After the stunning trilogy of Mysterium, Universalis, and Silencia transcribed feelings of loss into music, Elsewhere reflected the more universal loneliness of the pandemic.  First the duo, then the world couldn’t seem to catch a break.  Love In the Void is the sound of all the pent-up energy being released.  Instead of imploding beneath the weight of so much sorrow, the music explodes into euphoria.  After all they have gone through, Mark and Andrew have earned the right to rock.

The duo eases the listener into the newly expanded timbres.  “Procession”s familiar ambient tone is graced with Jónsi-esque vocals, a sonic harbinger.  The title track is pure post-rock, graced by a gorgeous breakdown; but because the tempo is slow, the impact is felt in increments.  “UnTruth” is raw and vulnerable: “Are you strong enough?  Am I strong enough?”  The questions are answered in music rather than in words, though the title of the sprawling ten-minute “It’s OK to be Afraid of the Universe” is an indicator.  The piece shimmers across valleys and deserts, hoping to reach mountains and forests.  Further down the road, brass-like tones signify a form of arrival.

The sudden ending of “Release,” the album’s sonic peak, ushers in a quieter phase.  The piano takes center stage, looking back and taking inventory.  Was there – is there – love in the void?  When the guitars and drums re-enter, it’s as if to say, you need not travel this road alone.  The ivory response is even softer, but more confident.  Soon the strings appear as extra companions.  Two light-based tracks, “I Would Stare into the Sun with You Forever” and “Absorbed in Light,” promote the road out of darkness, even as the abyss makes its final tug, worming its way between them.

“Will We Ever Be Ourselves Again,” Hammock asks, a perfect question for the modern age.  True to form, the duo then presents alternate paths in “Denial of Endings” and “The End Is the Beginning.”  The second is healthier, the album’s concluding sentiment.  Hammock has chosen the better path.  Holding their torches aloft, they head toward the light.  (Richard Allen)

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