Sleepmoss is ‘a romantic eulogy to autumn and winter’. The sophomore from Brighton-based producer Lara Rix-Martin, aka Meemo Comma, is now awake, opening up at just the right time, and in the right season.
At this time of year, leaves turn rusty and die, but Meemo Comma’s music is just at the point of ripening. Winter scowls and scarves come out, wrapping around throats and offering some protection against a cooler chill in the air. It gets cold in the UK, and while it doesn’t compete with Moscow or Minnesota in terms of the temperature drop, it can still be pretty darn chilly out there. Meemo Comma’s music reflects the onset of a gathering chill while also thoroughly relishing a season clothed in ground fog, smoke, harvest, and ash. Halloween is on the horizon, as are darker nights and dim afternoons. And while some may see Fall as a season of dying and withdrawal, others see a season of fireworks and unparalleled displays of beauty.
Her music takes a walk to the outskirts of a forest, and her sliding tones contain a creeping eeriness which only a walk through dense woodland reveals. Mysterious tones drape over the music as if it were a winter coat (and this is the kind of music that settles over you), burrowing into and taking root deep within the album’s soil, taking shelter like a scuttling insect hiding from predatory, thorny, and uncomfortable sounds.
Sleepmoss recites the local folklore of the rugged and unpredictable landscape, its age-old tales haunting the hills and dells. Although described as a ‘time for peaceful inner reflection’, the music is capable of producing a storm or two in its rumbles of thunder and its wailing, banshee-like notes, warning shots of high drama and sudden announcement. Rix-Martin takes it to the fore with striking, unique close-ups of moss and foliage and fingernails dragging against the rugged bark of thick tree trunks, choosing realism over flowery imagery. She also brings to light the prickly issues of mental health: finding peace within the struggle, and being aware of the fragile beauty within death and endings, both of which fit the overall theme of Autumn. The shifting landscape also affected Sleepmoss. On her daily walks, she would take her dog along the South Downs, and the music traces the topography of the land with raised tones, dips, and deeper puddles of mud.
The music’s eerie nature prevails throughout. It flickers through the music, sending shivers down a sensitive spine, blowing in the breeze like a thin dress on a coat-hanger, with no one around to wear it. Other noises scuttle around on the floor, making manic screeching sounds (“Night Rain”). On this track, it’s predator versus prey, nature in 20/20 clarity. Without mercy, bred for nothing but survival and refining killer instincts. But abrasive elements sit side-by-side with softer instrumentation, so it isn’t all rugged or cold.
‘Musically, we have never truly embraced rugged landscapes in their full glory and I felt this when I thought about the many different composers over the centuries, their work seemed uptight and far too human in scale. For instance, Vaughan Williams had unquestionably beautiful moments in The Lark Ascending, but it’s too clean, too controlled. I wanted to channel a take on classical music that was hyper-real, focusing on letting the elements speak to us, not the other way around’.
Her debut, Ghost on the Stairs, contained much of the same spookiness, but this feels like a shedding of skin, a natural artistic maturing. Lara describes Sleepmoss as ‘getting lost in the sumptuous divinity of the dark months in Britain…the last album was almost an exorcism of issues troubling me but this album is about the glory of solitude and the richness of romance that can be found in nature’. By including field recordings, the rustling is in the immediate vicinity, transporting you to the eye of the woods. There’s much more to nature, another side that isn’t usually lit by the sun. It doesn’t appear on cards or posters, but Rix-Martin highlights that other side, turning rocks over to reveal nature’s true, authentic self.
Spiky. Alive. Crawling. Creeping.
‘The sounds around us are totally different depending on the season. I always assumed it was to do with the change in water vapour and heat in the air. Summer is much too high-pitched and spiky’.
Changes in tone make for changes in the light, and the record strays into dusk and twilight. Nature is often seen as ‘something to be controlled, neatened, conquered’, but our species will never conquer nature. She’s a wild child, growing back with resilience, taking back control with invasive roots…but you can’t invade what was always yours. With realism rooted in her experimentation, Rix-Martin isn’t afraid to rake these leaves and discover what lies beneath.
Roses are striking.
They also have thorns. (James Catchpole)