Lomelda - M for Empathy - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Lomelda - M for Empathy

by Mark Moody Rating:8 Release Date:2019-03-01
Lomelda - M for Empathy
Lomelda - M for Empathy

For primarily nominal reasons I’m a fan of the letter em.  Apparently so is Hannah Read (aka Lomelda) on her surprise released mini-album M for Empathy.  With eleven songs spread over a scant sixteen minutes, several of those share in being named for the 13th letter such as ‘M for Magic’ and ‘M for Me’.  Aside from an affinity for M’s, I’m also usually a sucker for lo-fi recordings.  But also when those lo-fi artists finally make the move to a bigger or more “proper” sound.  Case in point would be Katie Crutchfield’s last step forward or Angelo DeAugustine’s move out of his bathroom based recording studio.

However, in Read’s case, she takes a step back stripping things down further than they have been before.  After her relocation to L.A. from her native small-town East Texas, Read opens up in the sparest of presentations about disconnectedness, lack of reciprocity, and a longing for acceptance, if not return.  On the opener ‘Talk’ over a simply strummed guitar, Read sings “I need to be over there, four states a step away”.  As a native East Texan myself, I will tell you that those are four mighty big and desolate states in-between, three time zones, and half a country away. 

On a return trip home, instead of hanging with the family Read holed up with her brother Tommy to commit M for Empathy to tape.  Even though it seems it could have been written and recorded in a day it was clearly important for her to do.  ‘Talk’ is followed by one of the more involved tracks, ‘Bust’, where piano arpeggios meet a more deliberately paced guitar strum.  Read’s voice is at its most expressive when pushed to its limit and her implored question of “what were they to you”, has the import of her words diminished by not hitting their intended mark.

Elsewhere, the distance is magnified in the thinnest of connections.  The phone calls on both ‘Bunk’ and ‘Slide’ show airwaves to be pale substitutes for physical closeness.  Though the glow of a screen substitutes for togetherness as best it can on the former and a simple finger swipe somehow becomes a life-saver on the modulated keyboard and voice maneuvers of the latter.

Parts of the album are merely sketches as in the instrumental track ‘M for Magic’ or the two bookends of ‘So Bad 1, Girl’ or ‘So Bad 2, Care’. But in their spareness, they convey the emptiness of Read’s isolation in a city so populous yet sorely lacking in providing her a  connection.  Read’s own voice layered over itself in the call and response of ‘Tell’ begs for a reaction to laying oneself out, without the reassurance that will happen.

Empathy is an interesting next step for Read, but it hardly seems calculated.  It feels more of an involuntary act in response to great disruption.  Unlike her ambient recordings phoned in from the road, Empathy is as organic and a part of her as her left arm.  Where Read goes next is anyone’s guess, but it’s a sure bet it will be as compelling as it is authentic.   

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