Named after a painting by his late father depicting downtown Los Angeles in a freak blizzard, David Sheppard first conceived Snow Palms as a vehicle for similarly evocative juxtapositions, pitching vaguely ‘Eastern’ flavoured mallet instruments against chamber orchestra arrangements, fluid classical guitar arpeggios and subtle electronics to create shimmering miniature landscapes in sound.
While such characteristics have regularly hallmarked two decades-worth of the multi-instrumentalist’s miscellaneous collaborative projects, Snow Palms’ 2012 debut album 'Intervals' felt like the beginning of a new, vitally refocused creative chapter, drawing on elements of library music, 1950s exotica, Moondog’s compositions for marimba, and various iterations of ‘minimalism'. Following a 2015 solo album under Sheppard’s own name, the second full-length Snow Palms release, 'Origin and Echo', surfaced in the autumn of 2017. Two years in the making, the album’s 11 organic, glimmering and propulsive essays built on the foundations of the preceding releases, with a heavy quotient of metallophones, glockenspiels and marimbas at their core, while effectively eschewing the chamber arrangements of old in favour of soaring synth-scapes and a palette of spectral ambient and electronic textures.
In 2017 Sheppard began experimenting in the studio with another musician/producer-cum-academic, Matt Gooderson. The new, duo-helmed Snow Palms debuted their synergistic enterprise with a remix-cum-reimagining of ‘Cycle 12’, an orchestral piece by label-mate and renowned film music arranger Matt Dunkley, released on the 2018 Village Green Record Store Day compilation Commune. Their new single 'Everything Ascending' will be released in February, preceding more music later in the year.
‘Everything Ascending’ sees Snow Palms mainstay David Sheppard’s signature glinting electronics and crystalline glockenspiels augmented by the modular synths, tapes, piano and production skills of Matt Gooderson, the vigorous, rhythmic clarinets of Christian Forshaw and the soaring vocal flights of Megan Gooderson (London Philharmonic Choir).
Over ten minutes in length, this is an undulating, inexorably unfurling odyssey, oscillating seamlessly between passages of mesmeric electronic pulse, choral-enhanced minimalism and immersive, gamelan-like ambience. The rhythmic undertow of ‘Everything Ascending’ is propulsive yet disorientating, speaking to a distinctly ‘off-the-grid’ ethos, the track’s unfolding, ever-spiralling momentum seemingly charting a course through locations that are somehow secret, with the power to surprise us.
AA-side ‘Circling’, meanwhile, is a bold orchestral reimagining of one of the highlights from Origin and Echo. A response to their own remix of ‘Cycle 12’ by fellow Village Green artist and renowned film music arranger/orchestrator Matt Dunkley (Inception, Black Swan, Iron Man), this is a brilliant repositioning of Snow Palms’ music in the emotion-soaked cinematic idiom. The original’s rich melodic palette and powerful rhythmic undertows are beautifully reworked for elaborately layered, potently arranged strings.
Two years in the making, 'Origin and Echo' builds on the foundations of its predecessor, 'Intervals' with a heavy quotient of metallophones, glockenspiels and marimbas at its core, but largely eschews the latter’s chamber arrangements in favour of soaring synth-scapes and a palette of spectral ambient and electronic textures.
Despite that, 'Origin and Echo' is a more performative record than was Intervals, its eleven organic, kinetic pieces meticulously constructed by David Sheppard from initial percussive skeletons largely essayed instinctively, in free time, without click-tracks and with almost no guitar. The album is loosely predicated on themes of mirroring and rebounding, whether physical or metaphorical, inspired by everything from the gravity-defying parabolas of space flight to patterns of human migration and feelings of déjà vu summoned by nostalgic journeys.
'Intervals' 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.