REVIEW: Luke Schneider ‘Altar Of Harmony’

Altar Of Harmony (Third Man Records)

A lot of the buzz around this surprising new age excursion from respected Nashville steel guitar player Luke Schneider centres on the fact that every sound was made with said guitar. Altar Of Harmony, his debut solo album, is an attempt to make non-Californian new age music with an unlikely instrument, music that Southerners might call their own. But it isn’t anything so crude as, say, taking the honeyed tones of country music-flavoured steel guitar and just dousing it in reverb. He has a whole pallet of vintage new age and proggy keyboard sounds here. The method by which he created them is a mystery, suffice to say it shows a remarkable gift for sound manipulation and synthesis. Most importantly, he knows exactly what to do with it all. Liquid, shimmering guitar lines in various guises mesh with choral drones and extended morphing chords that sometimes resemble a barrel organ or the eerie strings of a Mellotron keyboard, all “booming music of the spheres” as his record label so winningly puts it. The album is ripe with cosmic textures and lovely little psychedelic touches, most notably “Mundi Tuum Est” with its dreamy lo-fi loop that sounds like a swirling fairground carousel tune slowed down and fed through an old Leslie speaker cabinet. This is true ambient exotica from an unexpected source. Highly recommended.

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