Snow Palms – Origin And Echo

Snow Palms – Origin And Echo

Although latterly less prolific in releasing recorded wares, veteran Ellis Island Sound, Phelan Sheppard and State River Widening polymath David Sheppard certainly hasn’t curbed his sonic ambitions.  Last heard officially in 2015 on his first proper solo LP Vertical Land – which sailed multi-instrumentalist ingenuity and erudite magpie-like musicality on to assuredly grander but still reliably warming ‘non-rock’ waters – Sheppard now returns under the semi-solo Snow Palms alias for a second time, with possibly one of his most immersive and enigmatic long-form statements to date.

As a belated follow-up to Intervals – 2012’s inaugural Snow Palms long-player – Origin And Echo finds the ambidextrous journeyman aided by Emma Winston (Omnichord), Lauri Wuolio (cupola drum), fellow Village Green signing Angèle David-Guillou (keyboards), producer Giles Barrett and the returning Christopher Leary of Ochre (synths).  Seeking to channel something more elemental and philosophical via this outing, Origin And Echo captures Sheppard digging deeper mood-wise than he’s ever gone before.  Building almost everything up and around his self-played foundational tiers of percussion (metallophones, glockenspiels, xylophones et al.) with the aforementioned guest-played contributions, his own miscellaneous instrumental augmentations and extra electronic production textures, the album has a denser retro-futuristic ambience than its more organically grown and airily open predecessor.

The net result veers between weightlessness and weightiness, sometimes in the space of one composition.  Hence, while the chiming and gliding introductory passages of the opening titular-track could conceivably have appeared on Intervals, its shadowy compressed John Carpenter-imbued coda comes from a different darker place.  For “Rite” and “Black Snow” hypnotic Steve Reichian repetitions ripple through Tangerine Dream deep-space as desolate yet elegiac meditations.  Elsewhere, the lush processed-harp-driven “You Are Here”, the cosmonautical “Vostok” and the gorgeously burbling “Enclave” subtly invoke Brian Eno’s Ambient series whilst the evocative “Everything That Happened” would sit comfortably on Mogwai’s majestic Les Revenants soundtrack.  More demonstratively, the wider tracts of the album are found across the prowling epic “Circling”, which sprawls from percussiveness prettiness through to an amped-up crescendo of pounding drums and pastoral flutes without breaking into an undignified sweat.

Origin And Echo is certainly not the easiest entry point into the broader David Sheppard canon, with sonic layers that will require meticulous listener unpeeling to digest.  Yet in a time of bombastic haste and divisive rage this collection of contemplative and cognitive explorations provides a welcoming and intelligent place of respite.

Village Green