October 2015 CD of the Month – Slow Meadow

Slow Meadow is Echoes October CD of the Month

slowmeadowOver the last several years, we’ve been immersed in ambient chamber music with artists like Stars of the Lid, A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Ólafur Arnalds and Hammock. It’s a sound that harbors classical music sensibilities, but is often born in rock musicians who have gone a different way from power chords, shredding and popular song. Ólafur Arnalds played in punk bands while fellow Icelander Jóhann Jóhannsson came from alt-rock as did Adam Wiltzie and Dustin O’Halloran of AWVFTS. Hammock comes out of shoegaze rock with a dollop of Christian music.

Slow Meadow, the performance name of Matt Kidd, has followed a similar path. He was a heavy metal fan as a kid, emulating bands like Metallica, but then he got into post-rock and groups like Mogwai. He started to record looping electric guitar tracks under the name, Aural Method, but as Slow Meadow he has developed an even more introspective, serene sound.

“Linen Garden Pt.1”

Inspired largely by Hammock’s heavily processed guitar sounds, Kidd has emerged with his own take on ambient chamber music. His compositions move in languid slow motion. On “Linen Garden Pt. 1,” which features Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson from Hammock, a tolling piano sounds out notes from the edge of a fog shrouded harbor, eerie sustained guitar sounding in the background as glitch electronics scrape out a haunted memory. Cello moves in long whole notes against a violin melody that echoes the piano, creating a relentless build to a soulful Samuel Barber “Adagio”- like refrain.

You might think this was the creation of a string composer or player: it seems like there is more violin and cello than guitar. But like Hammock, the guitar rarely sounds like a guitar. With reverb, delays, and distortion, the guitars hover on the edges like ghost echoes.

In his slow-mo mode, Kidd creates wonderful textures and shifting tableaus. “A Farewell Sonata” recalls Arvo Pärt’s “Alina” plugged in with electronics pinging in the background, strings swaying in mournful willows of sound while Joshua Sebren creates a trumpet chorus of a celestial “Taps.”

“A Farewell Sonata”
As melancholy and mournful as I’m making this music sound, I find myself smiling wistfully at the musical uplift; the sense of triumph over a long haul; the warmth of the sun breaking after a storm. Listening to “Grey Cloud Lullaby” with its swelling strings and backwards guitar effects, is like crossing through a gateway into serenity. “Blue Rose on A Windowsill” is as wistful as its title suggests, with a spacious piano melody that called ambient chamber pioneer Harold Budd to mind.

Although Matt Kidd is part of the Christian world and played in Christian groups, it’s a different kind of religious sound that informs his music, a sound born from things like the Evensong Choir of Westminster Abbey in London, a sound made up of boy sopranos. It’s that heavenly spirit that gets into Kidd’s soul. He even creates his own vocal choir on “Summer Vigil” intoning the shadow of a gothic hymn.

Slow Meadow continues a lineage that goes back to Morton Feldman, continued through early John Adams into Harold Budd and Brian Eno. It’s a music of deep listening, tonal immersion and beautiful melodies that take their time. It’s little wonder he’s the first artist signed to Hammock’s label.

~John Diliberto

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