V/A: The Sleepover Series [Volume 1] (Hammock Music, 2005)
From the opening moments, the music is quieting, cutting through the busyness and clamour of life with floating guitar lines. All of the varying commitments in life seem to vanish in the haze of languid drones, leaving the listener to bask solely in the moment.
It makes sense that the music which breathes over the listener in such a placating manner would be packaged with a picture of a praying sculpture and given the name The Sleepover Series [Volume 1]. Created mainly by Marc Byrd, ½ of the new ambient-drone-space-postrock darlings Hammock (but also featuring generous contributions from the other ½ of Hammock, Andrew Thompson), The Sleepover Series [Volume 1] is a study in deliberately soothing textures designed to give the listener space to reflect. And, similar to Hammock’s other 2005 releases (the full-length Kenotic and the Stranded Under Endless Sky EP), The Sleepover Series [Volume 1] succeeds in capturing an other-worldly mood of contemplation and serenity that speaks to the listener’s soul.
Following in the broad footsteps of bands like Stars of the Lid/The Dead Texan and the mellower moments of Windy and Carl, The Sleepover Series [Volume 1] smothers the listener in varying densities of delayed guitar drones. Featuring no percussion or vocals, this full-length is a true atmospheric drone CD. Byrd’s approach to music on this release is to fashion slowly evolving music that conveys without words stilling notions that are hinted to in the titles of the songs. “Moon Through the Branches”, “Empty Page/Blue Sky”, “Dropping Off”, “Just Before Breathing”, “Still Point”, and “No Stopping the Sea” all demonstrate to Byrd’s unique talent for capturing ethereal moments in music. Due to each song’s wonderful and encompassing mood, and given the nature of the music, it truly is difficult to pick stand-out tracks on the CD. The Sleepover Series [Volume 1] is meant to be digested as a whole. Still, some tracks deserve a mention for curious listeners. “Empty Page/Blue Sky” is the only track attributed to Hammock (as opposed to Marc Byrd), and as such, it does sound a bit different from the other tracks, featuring a slightly darker mood and more involved guitar melodies, as well as more detailed musical accents. “Dropping Off” is 15 minutes of dark and slightly foreboding sounds. But, the highlight of the disc (if one is to be chosen) is the gloriously delicate “Still Point”, which features 24 + minutes (!) of angelic drones hovering and slightly mutating in the air. To begin to pick out the most appealing moments of The Sleepover Series [Volume 1], though, proves futile, as every moment of music on the disc leads to the other in a patiently and masterfully orchestrated symphony of subtlety.
In the end, Byrd (and Hammock) have again created a beautiful work of art. This talented duo has released yet another sub-conscious masterpiece of gorgeous music. Perfect for star-gazing, peering out your window at the snow falling, or even to fall asleep to, The Sleepover Series [Volume 1] is a dazzling must-have for ambient/atmospheric music lovers. Highly recommended.
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