Last year we reviewed Everything Ascending, a double-sided EP from the rejuvenated Snow Palms, our first sampling of the act as an official duo (and an unofficial quartet). The title track is included on Land Waves, but a pleasant surprise is that the new tracks rise to its level of beauty. In order to appreciate the album, one must enjoy glockenspiels, chimes and a holiday-like timbre; the album’s release two weeks prior to Christmas is perfectly timed.
Snow Palms jumps right in with both feet. “Atom Dance” is one of three tracks that hover around the ten-minute mark, joining “Everything Ascending” and the title track. Hypnotically expanding, the track adds woodwinds and vox to the mallets and synth, creating a landscape of neutrons and electrons in motion. We wonder if Snow Palms has heard The Pointer Sisters’ Neutron Dance, which is even faster. When the drums enter late, one may even draw a comparison to Book of Love’s Tubular Bells, These nostalgic associations help one to imagine happier times, and winter, and first snow, a feeling cemented in the introduction of “Evening Rain Gardens,” despite the different precipitation.
At 10:21, “Landwaves” has plenty of room to develop, and makes use of the long running time to establish an intricate network of percussion and synth. Once the framework is established, other elements are added, beginning with the clarinet. Gentle, wordless voices enter through a valley, signaling a shift to higher terrain. A natural ebullience shines through like the sunrise between mountains. Then the snares enter, and Snow Palms marches into the stars.
“Kojo Yakei” is a metaphor, the title referring to the phenomenon of “factory night viewing,” the admiration of architectural light and shadow, particularly popular in Japan. Paired with “White Cranes Return,” this closing diptych suggests that beauty can be found anywhere we look, in the industrial world as well as in nature. This encouraging thought helps us to view winter less as a season of dark than as a season of glint. (Richard Allen)