It might be thought that with a title like Nostalgia Ever After that Sand Snowman would be revivifying old-school folkies with a penchant for replicating the sound of chiming bells and hippydom sat cross-legged around lava lamps while the bong slowly bubbles over paisley dreams worthy of both Keats and Beardsley; and to an extent, they might be. Or more to the point, he might, as this is not so much a band as an artist living behind a suitably psychedelic pseudonym and within some equally out-there music.
Embedded at the core of Sand Snowman’s sound is the stalwart, circling acoustic guitar, but there is far more occurring here than just the languorous strum or the occasional pick and twang; a veritable woodland grove of instrumentation suffuses the album within a dense thicket of sound, though the rural idyll is only one of the many images which are drawn on. Between and beyond the pastorale is a sense of inner-spatial exploration which lies at the heart of any altered state, and it seems that Mr Snowman has trekked deeply within his own mind and within the wider spaces of those spaces where music can take the intrepid psychonaut.
So the nostalgia on display here is apparently one for a particular form of folk-derived British music, with all the obvious influences – Incredible String Band, Comus, Syd Barrett – flagged up and duly referenced in the harmonies , vocal or otherwise, which float into the mix; in the stop-start turnabout strokes with which time and timing can switchback like a sudden path through the woods; on the rhythms which flit from swift-panning bongos to clanking stumps, marching drum rolls and stereophonic handclaps; and in surprises like the chuckling ripple of analogue filters drifting off into a flatulently distorted bass guitar and recorder trills; or the combination of swirling kosmische soundscapes with acoustic instrumentation on pieces like “Between Eternities,” which hints at the territories glimpsed in the panoramic psych-folk of near-namesakes Sand.
It’s here that the great pleasure resides, as much in the familiarity as in the dissonances which place Nostalgia Ever After at cross-purposes to what the very name might signify. Each new listen reveals further depths to the songs, whether in the subtle strings or hallucinatory, sussurating drones, and there’s a certain satisfaction to be found in the interpretation of what the often-smothered (or deeply-mixed – this is an album which repays headphone listening richly) words are actually singing, something which can be missed easily if outside distractions intervene. Sometimes the more traditional elements come to the fore, as on the lead vocal on the subtly simple “An Evening After The Fall,” but there’s still more than a hint of the Diana Rogerson-sung moments of Current 93 to be heard withal, and the hint of back-masking on the beguiling “Waves” helps lift a song which borders on just the right side of etheriality into otherness, while the swooning production of a song like “One Summer” also reveals a decided affinity for Sean O’Hagan‘s later lush pop-styled Stereolab arrangements.
But comparisons to what has come before and provided inspiration aside, there is more than enough which is equivalent to or greater than the sum of Sand Snowman’s influences to be found within, and if truth be told, relished on its own plentiful merits; which is far more satisfying a result than music which can be collected and appreciated with the knowing nod of the connoisseur. It seems that Nostalgia Ever After can