Altar of Harmony
Third Man Records
Ambient music was essentially invented by Brian Eno – he consciously created his version of it at least; slapped the label on it. And though he’s moved in and out and through it, and seems always to return to it, he has done a great many other things and the versions of ambient music we here, so many in debt to him in at least one way, aren’t really at all similar to his initial blueprint.
Take Luke Schneider’s debut album as a solo act (he’s been an in-demand sessioneer across country and pop and rock). It is so overtly Eno-esque, it is so obvious to say it. Yet it really only resembles the Eno albums that were created in collaboration with experienced and idiosyncratic guitarists (No Pussyfooting with Robert Fripp and Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks with Daniel Lanois). Maybe Schneider owes more of a debt to Fripp – whose playing he evokes here, most certainly. And to Lanois, whose mood he builds from and develops.
Schneider made this album all alone – every sound he found or made through his pedal steel. And yet there’s barely anything beyond the mention of that type of instrument that could link it to the wounded Americana that seems to whistle in that very wind. No, this is dreamy, floaty textural stuff – hence the fallback to ‘Ambient’. This is day-spa music for when you next holiday on another planet. This is your ever-so-slightly psychedelic-edged soundtrack for the floating tank you might never actually get to bathe in – but you’re there. Your mind is so way ahead of you.
It’s also the album of solace for me right now. The record I’ve been looping and playing almost non-stop across the last few weeks. There’s something so perfect about it in the way it builds and floats – a hint of Pink Floyd’s first post-Syd moments if listened to on and from a certain angle. So much of the aforementioned No Pussyfooting in tone and Apollo in, well, atmosphere. But something else. That something that Schneider was searching for when he made this.
He found enough of it to enable this creation. There’s enough left to find that keeps this interesting, has me hoping already for future volumes, makes me return to this again and again.
This is the daytrip inside an album that my mind needs right now. And might want to hold on to for some time to come.
There’s a gentle master at work here. And the result is hypnotic. Utterly beautiful. So cautious and controlled – but with moments where the celestial architecture of Arvo Pärt, Harold Budd and Laraaji has been deeply contemplated. There’s a wild spirit that flows through this considered, thoughtful music.
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