Slow Meadow ~ Costero

The videos for “Brazos Fantasmas” and “Lamellophone and the Gulf of Mexico” focus on hands: hands upraised to catch the sun or the rain, hands holding and letting go, hands moving in time to the music.  The impression is of accepting whatever life is giving at the moment, of surrendering peacefully to the now.  Such images are perfect for Slow Meadow, alternately portraying and implying the name.  Even more endearing is the album’s teaser video, which displays the camaraderie between the artist (alternatively conducting and playing piano and guitar) and the string quartet: many smiles, some laughter and a whole lot of warmth.  At the end of the session everyone goes outside, and now we encounter those hands again, raised in joy or lowered to twirl a part of nature.

Many became familiar with Matt Kidd when he became the first signee to Hammock’s music label a couple years ago.  On his first album, he sounded a lot like Hammock, but since then he’s branched out quite a bit.  A steady stream of singles and EPs has provided a steady source of new music, but at the same time, it’s allowed the artist to experiment with tracks outside albums; as a result, not everything is included here.  But that’s okay; in fact, it’s a treat to discover all the bonus tracks, and a whole lot easier than it used to be, when people had to track them down on international vinyl.  The strength of the newest album lies not only in its inviting nature ~ a byproduct of the chemistry between players ~ but in its flow.  The large swells that begin to appear as early as “Boy in a Water Globe” allow one to rise and fall safely with the strings.  A snatch of children’s song surfaces at the end, cementing the feeling of togetherness, while the nostalgic video relays old images of Christmas.  The rusty “Viejo Carussel” extends the feeling that only a thin veil separates us from days gone by.

More than anything, the album is one of sustained peace, as if conflicts had never occurred.  Even a title such as “Hurricane” implies tumult, but the timbre implies calm.  One suspects that this peace was hard-earned, but Kidd doesn’t show it here.  Instead he seems enamored by all phases of time ~ past, present, future ~ and if a ghost has visited from each era, he’s felt more honored than scared.

The bonus track is a live mp4 video version of “The Tragedy of the Commons”, which first appeared as the A-side of a single this past summer.  Yet again, the mood is more soothing than sorrowful.  It’s as if Kidd had taken all life had to throw at him, cleaned it up and hurled it back through clusters of soft harmonic chords: a beautiful response to the vagaries of life.  (Richard Allen)

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