The Twilight Game / I’m not here
Having to date already posted three full lengths in the shape of these two – ‘the twilight game’ and ‘I’m not here’ along with 2006’s debut ‘Moth dream’ it seems the mysterious London based collective Sand Snowman are causing a discernible buzz on the psych folk underground. Led by a self described ‘disgruntled Hibernian’ who gives his name only as Sand and enlisting the help of a troop of vocalist friends they have already caught the ear of a certain Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree fame, who if accounts are true will be mastering to vinyl these two particular albums for release shortly on Tonefloat.
We came across Sand Snowman almost by chance, inadvertently it has to be said via another band currently residing on the Reverb Worship roster by the name of Beggin’ your pardon Miss Joan whose contact address you’ll find at the end of this review – and a band we strongly recommend you check out mainly for the fact that there’s certainly a strange Spaceman 3 / John Fahey thing going on within their debut ’dear nautilus’ release. Both of these Sand Snowman releases has since sold out of their initial hand made / numbered 50 only CR-R run with second pressings close to exhaustion – though we suggest a spot of shrewd internet sourcing should be enable you to nail copies as your own.
Both releases form part of a trilogy of full lengths that should see completion with the third and final instalment hitting the record shelves later this year.
To describe the sound of Sand Snowman is to say its been exquisitely cut and fashioned in a timeless song craft, the 8 track set ‘the twilight game’ is steeped in all manner of ghostly folk apertures, a hauntingly beautiful tapestry of delight is revealed within that’s indelibly crafted and cradled by an enriched yet strangely archaic tongue. Bathed and brimming with spellbinding hallucinogens, these endearing fleeting apparitions enchant and romance, at their core subtly revealing a demurring and delicately lingering pop sensibility with Sand’s (that’ll be the disgruntled Hibernian) deftly plucked woodland rustics being sublimely complimented by the gathered vocal duties of Moonswift, Jerome, Jo and Nyx.
‘twilight of the dogs’ opens the set, a gorgeously crafted slice of supernatural beguiling that at times had us recalling a fairy like variation of a windswept forest dwelling Free Design playing in the maypole festooned back garden of the Soft Hearted Scientists, the melodies cocoon and caress softly fingering and cascading like faintly daubed Cambridge folk watercolours softly mellowing your resolve with insidious delight.
The fanciful pastoral charms of the breathlessly breezy ‘Wicker Man‘ like ‘Harvest and the Stars’ had us recalling the much missed sultry textures of Le Mans while after softens you up with its subtle latino intones ‘the last candle’ suddenly manifests midway through into what sounds like some thought lost Henry Mancini styled score for an aborted 60’s cult series with what sounds like Wendy and Bonnie onboard to provide the willowy harmonies. The spectrally charmed and tranquil rustic fancy that is ’ether eyes’ is a numbingly invigorating soft psyche campfire mantra liberally woven amid surging arpeggios and pining pirouetting dust capes while elsewhere the ethereal Mexicana styled parched motifs of the duel like ’all fools parade’ could easily sneak onto one of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns and you’d be none the wiser.
All said and done though by far the most realised and beautifully bespoke moment of the set is the parting ‘the lamb’. Featuring a guest appearance on clarinet of Demian Castellanos of Oscillation fame whose ’out of place’ for DC recordings is something of an essential purchase, this ghostly beauty shifts the melodic goalposts ever so slightly to assume a piano led noire-ish jazz tinged down tempo persona – monochromatic, sophisticated and grand in design and framed touchingly in a vintage styled sepia this enchanting slice of quietly disarming romance recalls the lush intones of Italian duo Musetta.
Preceding ‘the twilight game’ is 2007’s ‘I’m not here’ – again limited to just 50 copies all hand made / numbered – this sweetly drifting harmony / melody laden treasure again features 8 cuts of tenderly scribed soft psyche folk. In comparison, ’I’m not here’ is a more stranger realised release than the pursuing ‘the twilight game’ – ostensibly more tender at times, though oddly counterbalanced by frequent moments of eeriness as on the decidedly unsettling ’some unearthly splendor’ which – unless our ears do deceive – appears to take its cue from the more impish moments of mid career Volcano the Bear or Alphane Moon. Obviously an embryonic run for ’twilight’ the moods explored on ’I’m not here’ are decidedly darker in detail, often emerging through disquieting minimalist hazes, subtle drone personas and lunatic montages – as on the spacey freewheeling ’liquid labyrinths’, the textures stretched and more sparsely atmospheric. Though that said there are moments of lilting radiance to be had especially on the lulling ’arms of oblivion’ which gently nibbles away curiously at – but then it could be my ears playing tricks – the Beatles ’8 days a week’. Elsewhere the daintily pepper corned ‘elsewhere’ – a perfect title considering it does appear thoughtfully lost in its own moment pierced as it by passages of library like kookiness intertwined with a strangely inebriated Camberwick Green charm themselves flashed through by disorientating moments of evaporating consciousness while the willowy and sedately hymnal opening salvo ‘stained glass morning’ deceptively demurs with its softly basked innately timeless mystery to at times traverse through the cosmic orbits of the more laid back moments found amid the grooves of Stereo lab’s ’cobra’ set .
A uniquely special talent whose stock is bound to rise once word is out, invest now or face ridiculously hiked demands via the online auction sites.
Best cuts –
Stained glass morning
And as promised that Beggin your pardon Miss Joan address – http://www.myspace.com/begginyourpardonmissjoan
published approx. October 2007