Slow Meadow is US multi-instrumentalist Matt Kidd who after years of session work took his Post Rock Aural Method project to Hammock’s Marc Byrd for for advice and feedback. The two hit it off and Kidd commenced making his widescoping ambient music under the name Slow Meadow back in 2015, joining such artists as The Ascent of Everest and Anman/Josh to record for the Hammock Music label. “Happy Occident” is his third full length album in a discography that includes a handful of self released singles and collaborations with Hotel Neon.
“Two years following 2017’s “Costereo”, Slow Mwadow returns with its third full-length “Happy Occident”, a collection of textured ambient melodies. Fueled by the anxiety derivative of modern life and the frenetic and often uncertain state of these ever-changing times, “Happy Occident” provides music for reflection. A soundtrack to life’s contemplative moments, and as an experience akin to mindfulness meditation”
“The album is like a walking dream of ideas strung together in a nonlinear fashion” says Matt Kidd. I have been thinking more about what it means to be “Happy” in the Occident. Happiness is often nothing more than a false promise used to sell something, even ideas. I dwell on the utter failure of that word, especially in comparison to something like the Greek word ‘Eudaimonia'”
In sourcing meaning from the title I looked up the meaning of Occident of which there are a few. In geographic terms it means the countries in the western hemisphere like the US and Europe while it can also be attributed to “The part of the horizon where the sun last appears in the evening: that part of the earth towards the sunset; the west; – opposed to orient” which when looking at the cover art feels to be the correct reference. But then with the reference to eudaimonia in the quote above and another look at the artwork questions what exactly happiness is.
Over the course of eleven tracks and forty minutes Kidd explores an array of sounds with elements of Modern Classical mixing with Ambient, Mininal tonal electronics mixing with blurred sonic landscapes and more. In a way the pieces feel rather as one collection of songs and more a collection of stories viewed through the lens of different music styles. Whatever the style there is one definite constant to the album and that is an attention to detail in the composition and mix. Each track has an ability to draw the listener in with the way that Kidd colours his music. I have a tendency to over use the term cinematic for a good reason. There are pieces of music or albums that you can see being used in film to compliment scenes or narratives and they work because of how well they are able to convey a mood or inspire visual cues to the listener. The pieces on “Happy Occident” are no exception. Kidd shows his delicate side on the piano with “The Future Belongs to Ghosts” supported by a shifting background, while with “Pareidolia” (which means that you see or interpret something in an object eg: cloud formations that take an animal form) the music becomes almost pastoral and ghostly, which is probably influenced by violinist Ellen Story who contributed to the album.
Story comes to the fore with “Drifting Phonetics” a piece that is coated in mournful violin with an under current of echoing sounds that have a brief time in the spot light towards the end. It would be quite easy to have elements that are complimentary to accentuate the feel, but the juxtaposition of the sounds mirror the title and change the texture of the piece. A track like “Liminal Animal” has a fluid mix of electronic tones, glitchy soundscapes, strings and piano and nicely floats from electronic and acoustic sounds and back again. Dialogue from either film or other sources is peppered throughout the album. Although not always obvious to what is being said it adds a mysterious edge to some of the pieces like the vocoder led “Blink” or “Artificial Algorithm” a piece that has a retro synth meets orchestral feel and is one of those types of pieces that leads you the soundtrack/score feel, in this case a moody sci-fi film.
At the end of the album with the press quotes, album art, titles and definitions in mind, I try to gain meaning or at least my meaning from the album and it’s themes. I think as Kidd alludes to above in regards to happiness and eudaimonia, and I may be wrong, the album is about the fleeting and arbitrariness of the concept of happiness and how it can be defined by different things. Possibly the artwork with the pristine hedge refers to a contented feeling of a job well done, but the slicing in half of the sun and the way the protagonist looks down on it is a measure of sadness and the happiness up to that point in time has passed. Whatever the meaning is, the album is one that demands deeper listening and is one where it is good to have a quote from its maker, as it makes the listener invest deeper in the album, it’s concepts and it’s meanings.
“Happy Occident” is available now on Lp, CD and Digital.