Last year we reviewed Slow Meadow‘s debut album on Hammockmusic, and it subsequently made our Top Ten in the Ambient category. This year, the artist (Matt Kidd) moves into the Modern Composition category with a sweet quartet of singles: five tracks, as the latest is an A/B release. This is a direction we saw coming, as the strings were the highlight of the prior set. The irony is that Hammock’s last album increased the number of vocals, while their signee remains fully instrumental.
The first of these singles to appear, “Evoke,” is the score to a short dance piece, as shown below. The dancers, the choreography, the cinematography and the music are all lovely. Piano provides the bass, but when that violin enters, look out! The downloadable track is a bit different from the video score, in that the sound of the dancers’ feet has been removed, and the piece cuts off at the end instead of trailing out, but it’s still a beautiful work, one that could easily be turned into a piece twice its length.
A second work composed for a larger artistic project, “Hananel’s Recovery” is the soundtrack to the documentary “Vitals”, which was made a Vimeo Staff Pick soon after release. It’s well deserved. The story of a brutal attack, “Vitals” blends live footage with animation, and spins through a kaleidoscope of moods, from calm to fear, anger to peace, and finally to hope. Kidd’s ability to integrate all of these moods is brought to the fore, thanks to incredible sound design. The downloadable version is calmer, as it is presented without edit and lacks the voiceover. Yet once one views the video, one notices that very first piano note (00:47 on the track), a high impact moment in what would otherwise be a low impact track. Each version ends in courage.
A series of spring tour dates inspired “Blue Audabe”, a collaboration with Hotel Neon, who contributes guitar and extra synth. This languid piece is the most soothing of the singles, a surprise as one would expect the doubling of performers to result in a louder sound. Instead, low, subtle drones provide the mattress below blankets of instrumentation, until they disappear midway to highlight the song’s sweet notes. This is also the piece that makes the best use of stereo, as individual sounds choose speakers in which to live, comfortably nesting while the others look for beds.
Slow Meadow’s latest works, “Lachrymosia” and “Some Familiar…”, were only released yesterday, and they make a perfect A/B single. “Lachrymosia” is the obvious A side, a showcase piece akin to “Crown of Amber Canopy”. Here again is a slow drone beginning, after which the textures and notes begin to sprinkle down. But the entrance of an electronic pulse quickens the pace, adding a sense of dramatic tension that one can nearly visualize ~ after all, one need not see a video in order to imagine action. The slow unfurling of the elements, including the subtraction and subsequent re-insertion of the pulse, makes this one of Slow Meadow’s finest tracks to date. Some very faint dialogue toward the end may or may not be intentional, but it injects a sense of mystery into the proceedings. On the “other side” (this is actually a digital single), “Some Familiar” is a slightly warbling, peaceful track, lent a nostalgic patina by the abraded opening. More piano-dominant than the other pieces, this track highlights the more tender side of the artist, providing balance to the string-laden pieces.
23 minutes of singles is already half an album. It’s evidence that the artist has continued to grow, and is finding new audiences for his work. We sense that this is only the start of a long and fruitful career. (Richard Allen)