By now the story is familiar to those Hammock fans keeping track of the band through the internet. In Spring 2007, the Nashville-based ambient duo was contacted by Jonsi Birigisson (lead singer of post-rock super group Sigur Ros) through, of all mediums, Myspace. The short message simply communicated that Hammock’s deeply melodic ambient material resonated with him. Simultaneously, a friend of Hammock’s had just invited the band to play at the North American premiere exhibition of Birigisson’s visual art project, Riceboy Sleeps, in Little Rock, Arkansas in August. Seeing as Hammock had up until that point never played a live show, and seeing as the venue and show was limited in space and prep time, the duo decided to write new material that they could play live, together, with no other musicians or trickery, in an intimate show dedicated to Riceboy Sleeps.
The resulting music from that show is what is presented on the new Hammock full-length, Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow. Named after a Riceboy piece that was featured in the show, the disc features 12 tracks of ambient material that was intimately recorded “live in the studio” with only a smattering overdubs (namely, the cello of Matt Slocum, which is sprinkled throughout the album, and some light wordless background vocals from Christine Glass-Byrd, which show up on one track, “Goldstar Mothers”). The music resulting from this intentionally constrictive approach to writing and recording is intimate, free-flowing (sounding almost improvisational), gentle, mellow, and organic. ’s guitar, loop, piano and cello pieces all cradle each other in melody fragments that point to the essence of this band. Gone are the bombastic arrangements, drum machines, acoustic guitars, vocals with lyrics and thick layers of sound; what Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow offers instead is a fascinating collection of pieces that draw the listener in without being so obvious and accessible. As far as proper releases go, Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow takes the most effort for listeners, as the melody fragments peak in here and there, just gliding over the surface of ’s graceful ambience. Yet, because of this hide and seek approach to songwriting, the songs on the disc ultimately reward repeated listens, as the pieces move through the listener’s consciousness, slowly revealing more of their delicate splendor.
It’s hard to pick out tracks to review on Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow, because the CD is so conducive to a single-sitting listening experience (perhaps due to the fact that the songs were originally constructed to be exactly that, only in a live setting). However, the songs are distinct, and have their own “personalities”, moods, and stories to tell within the broader feel of Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow. “City in the Dust on My Window”’s echoing guitar plays a distinctly esque melody, while wisps of loops gently brush against the melody. On “Goldstar Mothers”, do I hear an homage to Jonsi in the background…vocals looped to impossibly high levels, yet sounding magical and beautiful? “This Kind of Life Keeps Breaking Your Heart” slowly overtakes the listener with its simple yet profound melody. “Mono No Aware” is already a Myspace favourite of fans, with its back-tracking guitar loops and subtle atmospheric sounds. “Three Sisters” is four and a half minutes of warm church-organ-like ambient guitar, sounding like world-weary sanctified music emanating from a forlorn, dusty old church somewhere. “All of Your Children Are Addicts” features a spoken-word field recording that I still can’t make out (I’m dying to know what it’s from, though). “Elm” is perhaps at its more familiar, with a strong (but slow moving) melody, and a denseness in the guitar sounds that is reminiscent of past releases. And the list can go on and on: each song is distinct, but together they make up a formidable whole of ambient music that gently blows the roof off of the imagination of the listener.
And that’s what we maybe love most about. Sure, these guys write gorgeous melodies and play them with arguably even more gorgeous-sounding effected guitars. But, what this band is able to do more than most is capture the imaginations of listeners. Somehow, they are able to peek inside so many listeners and write the music emanating in our souls. The band captures this music, then puts titles to these songs of the heart that define even further the thoughts and consciousness ruminating inside of us. At least, that’s my experience with this band, and because of this, their music is a true gift. Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow continues in this vein of offering us the music deeply entrenched in our souls, only this time, is even more intimate than on past recordings. This CD shows us yet another side of this fascinating band; the side that sheds off the layers insulating themselves to the listening public, offering a vulnerable and personal recording that will draw out of listeners the same emotional experience. The project comes full circle, then, as listeners around the world can now experience and feel the same sense of exposure and mystery of that hot summer night in Little Rock, Arkansas…
(No review would be complete without mentioning the stunning artwork by Riceboy Sleeps, which features weathered pastels blending into a provocative abstract scene. Is it a picture of boys playing? Praying? Kneeling under the weight of sorrow? As with the music this picture inspires, all of these interpreted emotions are appropriate…)