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Meemo Comma - Sleepmoss Music Album Reviews

Meemo Comma - Sleepmoss Music Album Reviews

Field recordings and ambient synthesizers combine to paint an evocative picture of the English countryside and its natural cycles of rot and rebirth.

Have you ever picked a blade of grass, stretched it taut between your two thumbs, and blown this makeshift reed to release its musical potential? You get the same sort of satisfying squeak when you walk across a wet lawn in sneakers. This almost animalistic sound is rife in the latter half of “Night Rain,” from UK producer Lara Rix-Martin’s second album as Meemo Comma, Sleepmoss. Had she not stated in the accompanying notes that the record was inspired by her daily walks on the South Downs—a stretch of hills that runs for a couple hundred miles along the southeast coast of England—it wouldn’t have been too tricky to work out: the dense and scurrying sonics of Sleepmoss quickly establish the gist.
Sometimes the musing on a personal relationship with nature is especially explicit, as on the soothing “Murmur,” with its field recordings of morning birdsong, the simulated tap-tap-tap of a woodpecker, and a low hum that evokes a thousand busy minibeasts. Likewise, the crunch and creaking tones of “Tanglewood” suggest a contemplative autumnal woodland stroll. That said, Sleepmoss really soars in those moments where Rix-Martin’s sound design is attuned to a more cinematic purpose. The use of distortion and what sounds like reversed audio on “Windross,” for example, accurately conveys the sensation of wind whipping past the ears, the fragments of signals it carries forever scrambled. “Amethyst Deceiver,” too, is irresistibly uncanny; its tense and scraggly melody conjures a hopping magpie in my mind’s eye, bending its head to one side as if to assess the onlooker’s character.

Being in nature, wherever you are in the world, amplifies your own internal nature. It’s not just the isolation that leads to reflection, but the abundance of life and death in a never-ending cycle. What makes Sleepmoss a particularly English countryside album in this regard is that it nails the predictably unpredictable weather. There are parallels to be drawn between the ecosystem of UK undergrowth—damp and rotting, yet at once sprouting and squirming—and the thought cycles of the mind. It’s the presence of rain that grounds Sleepmoss and gives it strength.

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Where the album occasionally falters is in its attempts to evoke rain’s opposite. While most of the album avoids pastoral cliché to walk a more nuanced path, the bright synth and chimes of “Winter Sun” come off as twee. Similarly, on closing track “Psithur,” a soft synth that sounds like a CGI pan pipe is an odd note to end on. It falls flat because it feels like it’s trying too hard, unlike the rest of Sleepmoss.

When I smell wet soil, I know that I am from the earth and one day will return to the earth. This is the truth of the great outdoors and one that Rix-Martin excavates with care. Our planet’s land belongs to no one, and therefore no one has the right to deny others access to its metaphysical riches—because everyone, ultimately, is part of it. That Sleepmoss arrived during this time of Brexit and climate change makes it a particularly resonant document. Moss has found a way to survive anywhere and everywhere for millions of years, yet some of its most ancient forests are in danger of being wiped out. Within these contexts, it is Sleepmoss’s poignant title track that best rounds out the album for me: a mass of vibrating life-force strings that act as both meditation and invigoration.


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