That Slow Meadow's self-titled debut album is the first non-Hammock release to appear on Hammock Music speaks volumes about both the kind of material it features and its superior calibre. Matt Kidd's solo project even receives something of a Hammock ‘stamp of approval' in featuring Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson on the album's opening and closing tracks. Slow Meadow's beautifully crafted collection will not only appeal to Hammock devotees, however, but just as much to those of Stars of the Lid and A Winged Victory for the Sullen.
The respective parties met through mutual friends in the Nashville scene, an act of serendipity that brought artists with kindred sensibilities together. But while the two can be regarded as complementary acts (certainly one could easily imagine a concert series with Slow Meadow the opener), Slow Meadow is no Hammock clone. As the moniker itself intimates, Kidd's project is rooted in a more meditative approach than the sometimes anthemic style of Hammock's. With the minimal piano and processed guitar playing of multi-instrumentalist Kidd augmented by a trumpeter (Joshua Sebren), vocalist (Hannah Anderson), and string players (cellist Aimee Norris and violinists Andy Shelton, Joshua Ello, and Alia Gonzales), the recording unfolds like an hour-long sigh, a sumptuous, long-form exhalation of plaintive character.
With such resources in play, the eleven settings assume the character of refined ambient-classical music performed by a small chamber ensemble. Digital and electronic treatments are sometimes audible (see “Every Mournful Breath,” for example), but for the most part Kidd's graceful material plays like undoctored acoustic compositions executed in real-time. Wordless vocals drape themselves across his lilting meditations as near-subliminal textures, and lyrical piano and string melodies alternate with fluidity, imbuing Kidd's tremulous compositions with an understated yet nevertheless potent grandeur.There's a soothing and dream-like quality to this hymnal material, much of which is pitched at the level of a murmur. Exquisite moments abound, whether it be the yearning expressions of the solo violin in “A Farewell Sonata” and “Grey Cloud Lullaby” or the music box-like entrancement that sets in near the end of “Crown of Amber Canopy.” It's beautiful stuff from start to finish, and that it's a debut collection makes Kidd's accomplishment all the more impressive.