With Nostalgia Ever After, Sand Snowman proudly carries on the noble tradition of the eccentric British musician. His name is the first tip-off, and the cryptic puzzle of the album clinches it. With qualities both oddly familiar, yet thoroughly distant, this type of music is rarely heard anymore. Call it what you will, but such depths of emotion have previously only been heard from “mad” artists such as Syd Barrett or Nick Drake.
Lead track “Hemlock Garden” is a haunting mix of woodwinds and acoustic guitar. It is an especially effective method Sand uses to trigger the mind into recalling certain thoughts and feelings. I was reminded of childhood days in summertime, defiantly staying out too late, and secretly becoming more and more frightened as night grew closer. These are powerful memories that had lain dormant for a very long time. In some alchemical way, the music of Sand Snowman brought them forward for me. Not a bad result from the first listen of a new CD, and that was just the opener. “One Summer” follows, it is in a similar vein to what came before, and reinforces the nearly tactile sensations.
Visionaries such as Drake and Barrett had a gift. Backed with nothing more than their own guitars, they could take a listener to places he had never known existed. “An Evening In The Fall,” is a great example of Sand Snowman’s abilities to do the same. By using almost imperceptible chord progressions, the song slowly builds a series of layers. Suddenly the tension is released, as if a massive blast of wind had appeared out of nowhere. It leaves everything that came before it stripped completely bare.
The majestic beauty of the moment is maintained with two brief instrumental tracks. “Whats Your Poison,” and “Nostalgia Ever After” hold our interest, while quietly shifting the tone. This was a favored technique of The Incredible String Band, another influential British group that Sand Snowman has acknowledged an affinity for.
An ill-advised detour into a dark and very cold structure is where “Waves” appears to begin. The children’s rhymes are so troublingly insistent, they seem to be built into the surroundings. This is an extremely uncomfortable stop, and when a change in the music comes, it is a relief. Sand treats us to some solo guitar, which resemble something Steve Hackett might have played in similar circumstances. The interlude is a momentary breath of fresh air, before the crashing waves of the song’s title take over.
The imagery Sand Snowman creates so effortlessly with his music is remarkable. “The City Sleeps” is disconcertingly quiet after so much turmoil. But there is no sense of a resolution, in fact one is filled with a sense of trepidation. The placid surface of the music represents blissful slumber, but the careful listener will notice tiny jagged edges underneath. They are clues that dreadful events may be just around the corner.
“To The Flame” is the final track, and once again the soothing sound of folk ballads are called upon to set the stage. Whether the flame represents the end, or a new beginning to the tale is left up to the listener to decide. The Golden Rule of Sand Snowman seems to be an encouragment to use his music as a starting point for one’s new, or in some cases temporarily misplaced visions.
The surprisingly lovely tones the album ends with make everything seem to be from an Oz – like dream. Mysterious, thought-provoking, and absolutely beautiful in places, Nostalgia Ever After rewards repeated listenings. This is music that would appeal to a broad range of people, if they ever get the chance to hear it. There really is nothing else quite like Sand Snowman, or his impressive new record, out there these days.