Slow Meadow is the first act invited to join Hammock‘s label, and the influential duo contribute their talents to two tracks. Those are the lead stories. The follow-up story is that the other tracks are just as good. This is a pleasant surprise, as one typically fears that the more established musicians will overwhelm the newcomer. This is not what happens here.
Slow Meadow is Matt Kidd, who prepares a bed of soft piano and guitars atop which the live violins, cello and trumpets languish, like picnicking couples lying atop a blanket in – you guessed it – a meadow. In this sense, the early expectations are met. But Kidd distinguishes himself from Hammock with the amount of strings he uses; they dominate the attention on nearly every track. In moments such as the breakdown of “Summer Vigil,” one has to strain to hear the other instruments, although one knows they are there. But when they return, as they do in the final hundred seconds, they bring a sense of fulfillment and peace.
As the press release indicates, the album can be experienced as a suite rather than as a collection of tracks. There’s a consistency to the collection that butters over any potentially jagged edges: timbres are similar, and the pace is sedate from start to finish. This being said, there’s still a standout track, “Crown of Amber Canopy”, which bursts into bloom midway, then slowly disintegrates, providing a microcosm of the set as a whole.
In the album’s closing tracks, one begins to feel a light and troubling sadness. Perhaps it is the accumulation of so many strings, so many slow melodies in the meadow. “Every Mournful Breath” sounds just like its title; it even includes intakes of shrouded breath. This bittersweet undercurrent separates Slow Meadow from its contemporaries in the ambient/modern composition realm, offering emotion to accompany its beauty. When the end wraps around to the beginning with “Linen Breath Part 2”, Slow Meadow also offers a sense of completion. This chapter – this sadness, this weight, this melancholy – has ended, and one may choose either to lay aside one’s burden or carry it into the next chapter. As for the artist, we suspect he’ll be around for quite a while, and we salute Hammock for bringing his work to a larger audience. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 21 August
The limited edition version of Slow Meadow includes a CD/vinyl hybrid disc, four bonus tracks and a live performance captured on Blu-Ray. The bonus track “Lonesome Summer” is shown below.