Springhill by The Green Kingdom (Review)

Michael Cottone’s tribute to his neighborhood uses lush, pastoral soundscapes to evoke a sense of wonder.

For nearly 15 years, Michael Cottone has been creating lush, evocative soundscapes as The Green Kingdom, and in the process, utilizing genres like ambient electronica, pastoral dreampop, and ethereal dub. But regardless of genre, his music is uniformly characterized by a hushed, intimate quality — and Springhill is no different.

Named after his family’s neighborhood, Cottone describes Springhill as ​“a sonic love letter to our little piece of this earth and its surrounding areas.” To that end, the album’s ten songs weave together pulsing electronics, acoustic guitars, and the slightest hints of drone to create a sense of wonder and discovery in the midst of the mundane and ordinary.

Morning Walk” evokes a neighborhood’s earliest moments, the streets and houses bathed in sunrise with everything just beginning to stir. Meanwhile, dreamy, pastoral songs like ​“A Painting of Mountains in the Clouds” and ​“Mayloops” veer into July Skies and epic45 territory, i.e., perfect, nostalgia-soaked soundtracks for lying down in the grass on a warm summer’s day and watching the clouds drift by high overhead.

However, Springhill is not without its darker side. ​“Anam Cara” employs acoustic guitar and drones like the rest of the album, but the sonics here are starker and, while not ominous, certainly more haunting. Given Cottone’s goal with Springhill to ​“appreciate the beauty that surrounds us,” this song — which is certainly beautiful in its own, somber way — does make one wonder about the stories and experiences that might’ve inspired it.

By the album’s end, however, Cottone has returned to gentler, more contemplative sounds. ​“Saint Lawrence” concludes Springhill on a relaxed, satisfied note with lazy guitar, chiming synths, and hints of string arrangements — and all of it suffused with the warm, sunset glow of analog crackle and hiss.

These songs can initially sound slight and innocuous. The first time I listened to Springhill, I was focused on something else and allowed the music to slide into the background, where the songs proceeded to blend together. But Springhill is an album that really does reward a closer, more intentional listen to its lush atmospherics and carefully composed details.

If you’re the type of person that enjoys nice, leisurely strolls through your neighborhood, then might I suggest Springhill for your next jaunt? Not only are its ten songs perfectly suited for such unhurried activity, but I suspect their sounds might help you see your familiar streets, houses, hedges, and paths in a new and revelatory light.