Land Waves, the third album by new minimalists Snow Palms, is the project’s first full length since becoming a duo. At times it is like Terry Riley with Lex Baxter in Japan, at others it could be the soundtrack to a meditation centre in neo-Tokyo dreamed up by William Gibson and Brian Eno. Its patterns and textures accelerate and resolve with drama and intent, its abstractions rendered by a distinctive kinetic sound world of mallets and synthesizers conjuring real and imaginary landscapes.
The album’s opener Atom Dance, which is like Martin Denny’s orchestra reinterpreting Steve Reich, crescendos to heart-stirring finale. Everything Ascending counts out a human heartbeat before reaching for the stars in glittering synths and galaxies of soaring vocals; Evening Rain Gardens is soothing music for a meditation centre from the future. Title track Land Waves is a restrained epic, equal parts vast panorama and decorous motif. The graceful woodwinds of Thought Shadow express the album’s more reflective moments, while the shifting rhythmic patterns of Kojo Yakei evoke the concept it’s named for – a Japanese trend for night-time visits to factories and refineries decorated in lights. Inexorably enveloping closing track White Cranes Return is a requiem for twilight, when soft shadows are drawn over a landscape.
Land Waves is hallmarked by the voice of Matt Gooderson’s partner Megan, who was pregnant with their son during recording sessions. Her empyrean vocals are woven into the tapestry of the album, grounding the music in the human, as glockenspiels, marimbas and clarinets move in lockstep with arpeggiated modular synthesizers and glinting percussion. “Adding the human voice to this sound world adds a generous new dimension and opens up and a whole new vista for Snow Palms,” says Sheppard. “It’s a buoyant and uplifting record, which I love deeply, agrees Gooderson, “That feeling is much needed in these times of crisis…”