Snow Palms was initially conceived by composer David Sheppard (State River Widening, Ellis Island Sound, Phelan/Sheppard, etc) as a vehicle for instrumental pieces based around xylophones, glockenspiels, vibraphones, metallophones and other mallet instruments. Having set about more than two dozen such essays inspired by everything from Moondog’s Elpmas marimba études to Arthur Lyman’s faux-Polynesian exotica and Carl Orff’s Schulwerk children’s music, Sheppard hooked up with producer/arranger Chris Leary (Ochre) to sort the wheat from the chaff, adding layers of chamber orchestration and discrete electronic textures to many of the intricate, polyrhythmic superstructures. The duo then expanded the arrangements to embrace woodwinds, a string quartet, classical and electric guitar, harmonium, reed organ, prepared piano, omnichord and synths.
The result is a mellifluous, chiming sound-world, ineffably marrying liquid gamelan soundscapes with English orchestral pastoralism (‘Atoll’, ‘White Sea’), Krzysztof Komeda-esque soundtrack mystery (‘Snow Light’, ‘Swimming Figures’, ‘In Camera’), beguiling, Yann Tiersen-like themes (‘Premonition’, ‘Blue Yonder’) and playful woodwind/strings/percussion face-offs infused with the spirit of Moondog (‘Motion Capture’, ‘Delta Switching’).
Echoes of Terry Riley’s minimalist opus In C flicker amid the pulsing keyboards and interleaved raindrop xylophones of ‘Index of Rivers’ while the teeming, pointillist coda of ‘Light Museum’ nods to polymeter mallet master Steve Reich. For all that, Intervals (so named for both its musical architecture and for the episodic nature of its recording) remains an album with its own unique sonic character, guaranteed to compel and hypnotise with its relentless, intoxicating waves of rhythm, melody and harmony.
released October 19, 2012
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