About Snow Palms

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David Sheppard first conceived Snow Palms as a vehicle for music played on mallet instruments, devices that have featured intermittently across almost two decades-worth of the multi-instrumentalist’s miscellaneous collaborative projects that include State River Widening, Ellis Island Sound, The Wisdom of Harry and Phelan-Sheppard.

Snow Palms’ 2012 debut album 'Intervals' won a sheaf of approving notices for its ineffably cinematic blend of polyrhythmic percussion and richly melodic orchestration. Two years in the making, follow-up 'Origin and Echo' builds on the foundations of its predecessor, with a heavy quotient of metallophones, glockenspiels and marimbas at its core, but largely eschews the latter’s chamber arrangements in favour of soaring synth-scapes and a palette of spectral ambient and electronic textures.

 

About David John Sheppard

The son of a pharmacist father, Londoner David John Sheppard has rarely strayed from being a creative dispenser of distinction. After exploring formative musical stirrings in the late 1970s and ’80s, an initial taste for post-punk quickly ceding to an eclectic predisposition to everything from downtown NYC experimentation, modern composition and free jazz to African music and various international folk forms, Sheppard dabbled in music while studying Film & Art History at art school in Sheffield before getting serious at the dawn of the 1990s with short-lived baroque folk-rockers Balloon, who signed a major label deal with RCA in 1991. Although the band, led by Ian Bickerton, delivered only one album – 1992’s now collectable Gravity – in Balloon, Sheppard gained insight into mixing desk mechanics, courtesy of producer Michael Brook and recording sessions in Daniel Lanois’ New Orleans mansion-studio, and learned which record label landmines to side-step in future. With his “palate cleansed” by the ’90s post-rock scene cooked-up in Chicago and elsewhere, Sheppard began a creative roll that has scarcely lost any momentum ever since.

Hence, since the mid '90s, he has forged a polymath’s career of unbridled yet warmly accessible exploration, initially in the shape of parallel operations with both Keiron Phelan and Pete Astor (formerly of The Loft and The Weather Prophets). With Phelan, and drummer Jon Steel, came the pleasurable pastoral post-rock of State River Widening (across three LPs and several 45s between 1998 and 2004) and the still theoretically on-going Phelan-Sheppard (with the most recent album, Harps Old Master, appearing on The Leaf Label in 2006). With Astor came trusted sideman duties in the art-pop journeying of Matador recording artists The Wisdom Of Harry and an equal partnership as Ellis Island Sound, who, when not remixing the likes of Manic Street Preachers, Two Lone Swordsmen and Beth Orton, explored their own bedroom electronica, Anglo acid-folk, Afro-Krautrock and pointillist minimalism for labels such as Heavenly, Peacefrog and Static Caravan, and, latterly, on 2014’s Regions LP and sibling mini-album Divisions, for the Village Green imprint. Sheppard has also forged a long-distance enterprise between himself, Phelan and Japanese artist moomLooo, known as Smile Down Upon Us (for an eponymous long-player on Static Caravan in 2008 and a second album due in summer 2015 on the wiaiwya label), not to mention his semi-solo endeavour with producer/arranger Chris Leary (Ochre) as Snow Palms, which yielded the percussion-led ambient and post-classical essays of Intervals in 2012 (also for Village Green).

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Sheppard’s considerable gifts haven’t just been hoarded for his primary projects. Over time, he has been a collaborative player (largely, but not exclusively, on percussion, drums, bass or guitar) and a production aide to a vast array of likeminded artists, such as (deep breath) Piano Magic, Klima, Mark Fry, 30km Inland, Continental Film Night, Tellerman, Winter Cabin, Darren Hayman, Silver Servants, David Grubbs and innumerable others.

Not content with operating on both sides of the studio glass, Sheppard has also worked on both flanks of the critiquing and curating axis – “poacher-turned-gamekeeper-turned poacher”, as he puts it – as both music critic and independent label founder. Since the publication of a wry US tour diary from his days with Balloon, printed in America’s College Music Journal, Sheppard has been a reliably erudite contributor to Q, MOJO and several national newspapers, the editor of Art & Music magazine and the editorial overseer for, among others, Julian Cope’s Copendium anthology for Faber Faber. Sheppard also penned his own tour de force tome – a riveting, comprehensive biography of Brian Eno, On Some Faraway Beach, published by Orion in 2009.

Sheppard has also operated even further behind the scenes by co-founding the boutique record label Second Language in 2010 – with Piano Magic’s Glen Johnson and The Home Current’s Martin Holm – a home for the likes of Mark Fry, Colleen, Áine O'Dwyer and Sharron Kraus. He also fits in Visiting Lecturer duties on music degree courses at Westminster University and UEL.

With his first bona fide solo album Vertical Land, set for release in May 2015 on Village Green, promising to bring together many of his artistic tributaries, alongside yet further gleaming new channels, it seems that David John Sheppard’s diary still doesn’t have much downtime scheduled into it.

Adrian Pannett