Saturday, July 31, 2010

Music for Theologians: Hammock

Back in the 90s, one of my favorite bands was Common Children. I still love Common Children, and I listen to their music with unavoidable nostalgia. With their last album, they took a decidedly dream-pop turn, and all their fans got a glorious taste of Marc Byrd's beautiful guitar work. Since then, Byrd has written songs such as "God of Wonders" and acted as producer for bands like The Glorious Unseen and even produced a tremendous album with his wife, Christine Glass.



In 2004, Byrd partnered with Andrew Thompson and began releasing albums of glorious ambient-shoegaze music under the name Hammock. Now, I mention this band in the context of doing theology because it is perfect music to listen to while working your way through a meaty text or struggling to finish Vos' Biblical Theology. It is at once gorgeous and emotive and yet unobtrusive.

I am a big time advocate of post-rock music because rather than entertain, it is music which enriches our immediate experiences. I am constantly in a worshipful mindset when I listen to Hammock. As I drive to the store, I turn this music on and am reminded that life is more than a series of material experiences; there is a transcendent element to Hammock's music which makes studying theology feel like the most important thing in the universe - which it is. Almost.



Like all music which is without lyrics, listeners of post-rock music can insert their own ideas or notions into the music, but lyric-less music can be redeemed by Christians just as much as it can ruined by pagans. Also, knowing that Byrd and Co. do approach the music they do with a Christian perspective in mind, for me, makes me feel somewhat justified in delighting in God while listening to the gorgeousness of it all.



If someone was to pick an album by Hammock to start with, I would suggest Raising Your Voice...Trying to Stop an Echo. It is the most guitar-heavy (very ethereal guitar; not at all a U2 album by any stretch), shoegazerish album from them so far. Also, Amazon is selling the MP3 version of the album for $6.99 which is a great deal. However, their album Kenotic is a close second. I also would not shy away from recommending their newest album, which is also epically beautiful; it is called Chasing After Shadows...Living With the Ghosts. My favorite song off of the new album is called "Little Fly/Mouchette" which reminds me a great deal of Brian Eno's greatest piece of ambient work ever, "An Ending: Ascent." In fact, as of this moment as I write this, if you go to Amazon's Hammock page, you can see that the first song off of Chasing After Shadows... is available for free download.

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