While Hammock’s last album was born from tragedy and cast in shadow, ‘Universalis’ is about survival, recovery and hope. It looks towards the light. Andrew Thompson and Marc Byrd continue to employ the neoclassical sound they’ve so brilliantly evolved over the last few years so some of this is a little sombre by default but strings now seem to soar instead of swirl, skittering percussion adds direction and gentle momentum, and the guitar of ‘Cliffside’ is truly cinematic. There’s a steadier rhythm here than before too- where ‘Mysterium’ felt like it was holding its breath, this more regularly rises and falls, a deep inhale and slow release, a heartbeat, alive. This story isn’t over- ‘Universalis’ is the centre part of a trilogy of albums- but there are none of the usual problem associated with a middle sequel. This is an immersive, interesting, inspiring effort from a band in the finest of forms.