If you were to ask me what my favourite moment on 'Universalis' is, I wouldn’t have an answer. I couldn’t have an answer.
Universalis, and Hammock by extension, offer a sort of oceanic, dreamlike post-rock you can’t just put a pin in. Bands like Godspeed have their crescendos and their movements of searing, calamitous instrumentation - Hammock are a prettier type of white noise.
Universalis clocks in at just under an hour long, positioning it as one of the longer releases I’ve heard this year, as well as the most ambient and layered. There are occasionally hints of traditional structure. Tracks like ‘We Are More Than We Are’ are more recognisably musical, though nonetheless meditative and conciliatory. If anything, Universalis’ choral ebbs and flows are let down by the jarring transitions between tracks. The album doesn’t peak or lose momentum, but it does drop off in fits and starts, making an otherwise relaxing experience feel a bit like listening to an album out of order. Maybe years of perfectly-tuned gapless playback on prog and ambient music has spoiled me, but I tend to prefer a more seamless experience
Sonically, it swims between harmonious and tenebrous. If ‘Always Before Your Eyes’ is a cathedral, then ‘Tremendum’ is the warning of a storm on the horizon. Perhaps the best way to describe Universalis’ high points is cinematic. More than once, I was reminded of Gladiator, of Maximus dreaming his way through the fields, crops running through his splayed fingers.
It’s this film-like quality that sets Universalis apart from the other post-rock releases of 2018. The music itself is not as potent as I would have liked, but I find myself thinking about the experience itself quite a bit. There’s something to be said for the entire package of ambient music, and Universalis leans hard on your ability to disappear into sound.