Slow Meadow: Costero
Hammock Music

Hammock's artist-owned record label includes only one other artist besides itself: Slow Meadow. No more than a single listen to Costero, Matt Kidd's follow-up to the self-titled Slow Meadow debut issued in 2015, is needed to explain why. Costero, you see, inhabits a realm similar to Hammock's, even if Slow Meadow's material gravitates even more in the direction of neo-classical ambient than Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson's duo project. Differences aside, what the two artists share is a talent for crafting music marked by delicacy, grace, and harmonic splendour.

Kidd's is an inordinately pretty and generally plaintive music, one less weighed down by emotional gravitas than Hammock's but affecting nonetheless. A gifted multi-instrumentalist, the Houston, Texas-based Kidd wrote, arranged, produced (with additional production credited to Hammock) and performed everything on the release except for string parts played by violinists Maxine Kuo and Joanna Becker, violist Yvonne Smith, and cellist Aimee Norris, plus percussion contributed by Jay Snider to one track and cello by Katie Farrell to another. Eleven tracks are presented, with one a bonus live version of “The Tragedy of the Commons.”

Slow Meadow's hushed music is like a soothing serenade, an unabashedly heartfelt expression conveyed using strings, piano, and electronics. Formally speaking electroacoustic in nature, Kidd's luxuriant music wears its synthetic side lightly, its emphasis primarily on the acoustic sonorities of the piano and string instruments and electronic elements used for textural enhancement. As much as Costero's music exemplifies an ethereal, even celestial character, there are pieces that feel grounded in earthly experience, with a subtle tinge of Mexican flavour, for example, surfacing within “Cielo Rojo,” and programmed beats in “Hurricane” aligning Costero, even if for one track only, to electronica.

Individual pieces impress, such as the elegiac, strings-drenched settings “Boy in a Water Globe” and “Palo Volador” (the latter featuring a lovely cello contribution by Farrell), but Costero more impresses as a cumulative album statement, especially when each piece eases so comfortably into the next. Kidd's gentle touch on the piano in “Borderland Sorrows,” “Quintana,” and “Brazos Fantasmas” suggests kinship with artists such as Nils Frahm, Max Richter, and Olafur Arnalds, and certainly any listener feeling affection for their work should likely feel much the same about Slow Meadow's.

December 2017