Last Night We Became Swans is a study in contrasts. It is expansive and tight, physical and intelligent, mannerly and immensely urgent. It luxuriates in the paradoxes of love — its euphoria and its plodding routines. It meditates on the life-changing jolt of new love or sudden violence. This collaboration between ambient masters Hammock and singer/songwriter Matthew Ryan delivers a record so sweeping that you imagine yourself floating suspended over some glimmering metropolis, yet so intimate that you can feel Ryan’s breath in your ear.
It took seven years for this record to come to fruition. “The reason we’ve waited so long to realize it is mainly due to the fact that we’re relentlessly stubborn,” Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson of Hammock say. “We were dedicated to it being as perfect as possible,” Ryan adds. “Having to satisfy each of our instincts and standards.” Hammock are established as leaders in versatile post-rock composition, and Matthew Ryan is an acclaimed songwriter about whom adjectives like “gritty” and “blue collar” are bandied about far too much. The combination, like a rough hand on a silk dress, is arresting. They collaborated with Peter Katis, who works with artists ranging from The National to Japandroids, to mix the album, and the result is a lush and immediate soundtrack to a modern love story.
With the elegant, anime-future aesthetic of Hammock swelling and cresting under Matthew Ryan’s vocals, singles like the title track and “Don’t Go Away” are intimate, heart-wrenching gems, while “Collide” could be at home in a boozy Ibiza nightclub or a cavernous Chelsea warehouse flat. With a sonic foundation calling to mind Brian Eno, Steve Reich and Daniel Lanois commingling with the pop acumen of New Order, U2 or Interpol, The Summer Kills have delivered an utterly immersive, utterly ravishing album.