Boomkat Product Review:
Oh this is good! If you love Daniel Lanois' heart-piercing pedal steel clouds on Brian Eno's "Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks", then this collection of modern pedal steel-based drift music is gonna hit you straight in the gut. Features contributions from Susan Alcorn, BJ Cole, Luke Schneider and more.
For Tompkins Square's eleventh "Imaginational Anthem", the label sign up Third Man's Luke Schneider - an in-demand Nashville pedal steel player - to assemble a selection of tracks that survey the modern pedal steel landscape. Schneider's comp offers us a bit of history, opening on a track from legendary player BJ Cole, who's played with Harold Budd, Björk, Dave Gilmour and The Orb, and provided pedal steel to Icebreaker's versions of Eno favorites like 'An Ending (Ascent)'. His 'Ely Revisited' echoes that era of ambient music, setting sublime pitch bent country-fried tones against billowing pads that throb into a hopeful, oscillating crescendo.
NYC player Jonny Lam - who's performed with everyone from Pharaoh Sanders to David Byrne - opts for a more open approach, nestling his hypnotizing tones in a fantastical country backdrop filled with birdsong and light gusts of wind. The album takes a turn when it his 'An Ode to Dungeness', a UK guitarist who moved to Nashville to follow his interest in American country; his track brings in drums and piano, and is the most self-consciously Americana moment on the set. Barry Walker Jr. lifts us back into the heavens with 'I Will Tread Upon the Lion and the Cobra', that feeds lilting pedal steel phrases into a phaser, creating a psychedelic mood without even trying too hard.
Of course though, it's Susan Alcorn - the avant-garde pedal steel innovator who's worked with Pauline Oliveros, Jandek, Ellen Fullman and Josephine Foster, among others - who pushes hardest into the unknown. 'Gilmor Blue' doesn't take any easy routes, and Alcorn sounds as if she's resisting the temptation to drift into loveliness, exploring the pedal steel's pitch bends with an inquisitiveness that's hard to turn away from. It's a fantastic set - one of the best compilations we've heard in a minute and a glorious celebration of an instrument we can't get enough of.