Hammock - Asleep in the Downlights
Record Label: Hammock Music
Release Date: October 25, 2011
I once stated that Hammock is a well-respected band in the eyes of the post-rock fandom, and it has proven to be true time and time again. It’s been a year since then. Now, the same words come from a man of greater musical authority, and one would naturally expect greater music to match them. “I had a strong sense that as a band, Hammock has its own authority and place in the field of atmospheric music”, said Tim Powles of The Church, and mixer of Hammock’s previous album, Chasing After Shadows…Living With the Ghosts. Do his words hold true? With Asleep in the Downlights, I anticipated more of the same, considering it contains two b-sides from Chasing. Instead we are presented with something not only different, but transcendental, something powerful enough to knock two musical titans to their knees and join in song. Indeed, this EP has not only truly earned the cooperation of Steve Kilbey and Tim Powles, but it has seduced and subjugated their talents under its hypnotic power. The combination of such imposing composition with these talents creates a behemoth of beauty, overwhelming in its scope.
Asleep in the Downlights opens with “No Agenda”, creating a similar feel to Chasing’s murkiness as it is one of the b-sides, but instead sports a new aura of celestial properties. The ambience in “No Agenda” is both tense and reserved, as though deep emotions are being forcibly held back. Enter a somber acoustic guitar melody, and the one and only Steve Kilbey’s poignant words, less melodic but powerfully declared. “No Agenda” takes its place as one of the best vocal performances I have ever heard. Kilbey’s voice and words, both unmatched on this release, pairs the music with complimentary emotion in a way better heard than read, searing the mind with a flood of immortalized despair. Next, “Sinking Inside Yourself”, one of the two new songs, forms a more warmly uplifting atmosphere, with its high background tones and distorted keys paving the way. For the first time, we hear the voice of Andrew Thompson, which is hidden in the mix probably due to less than savory intonation or a lack of confidence. Whatever the case may be, the lack of clarity in Thompson’s voice creates a minor imperfection on the face of Hammock’s otherwise flawless production record. The vocals are by no means poor, however. Their downscale melodies encapsule the best instance of the hypnotic nature of the EP. “Verse for Forgiveness”, Tim Powles’ guest track, is the most optimistic of the four tracks, with its instrumental crests accentuating his inspirational words with their wispy spires. Finally, Asleep in the Downlights closes with the familiar solemn sighing of Marc Byrd throughout “Parker’s Chapel”, containing as much serenity as it has sadness.
As a conglomerate, Asleep in the Downlights comes together as though each song was a piece from its own separate puzzle, yet somehow interlocking perfectly as though it was always meant to be. Hammock have indeed proven their musical abilities, which are best defined in this way. Post-rock has a lot to offer in terms of melodically pleasing music for a variety of palates, but artists who can form an emotional appeal across a wide array of individuals and in ways that tap into individual senses and imagery are extremely few and far between. That is the true essence of Hammock and the significance of this EP, as it is the most vivid manifestation of it. Kilbey’s and Powles’ endorsements serve as eyewitness proof.