Renowned Nashville pedal steel player Luke Schneider has shared a video for "lex universum," a highlight from his new album Altar Of Harmony (out now on Third Man Records) -- watch HERE. The album is now available to stream digitally HERE and to purchase on standard black vinyl HERE.
The video was created by cinematographer Dustin Lane, who had this to say about his experience:
"In the beginning of quarantine I was very appreciative of the newfound quiet and time at home. Luke’s music became a regular presence in the house, beautifully calming. With film labs and rental houses closed, I was looking for a camera format I could manage on my own for a creative project during the downtime. Eventually I came to rig a small digital cinema camera to record the projected image of a large format stills camera. There is an otherworldliness to the way a large format camera renders space that I felt was translating. The images here are the result of many days driving through the mountains and deserts surrounding Los Angeles, soundtracked by the shimmer of Luke’s music. I hope it can serve as a brief bit of meditation."
WATCH THE "LEX UNIVERSUM" VIDEO
STREAM ALTAR OF HARMONY IN FULL
The music on Altar Of Harmony is situated firmly in the ambient new age realm, yet all of the sounds on the record were created with a 1967 Emmons Push/Pull pedal steel guitar. Schneider is an in-demand session musician, even described as "an MVP of the Nashville music scene" by the Nashville Scene. He has recently performed and recorded with Margo Price, Orville Peck, Caitlin Rose, William Tyler and many more.
Altar Of Harmony was announced with first track "Anteludium" and its accompanying video -- watch the video HERE, and listen to the audio-only version HERE. Nashville Scene said that the track "rests on a cloud of pulsing harmony, shot through with soft-edged melodies like rays of light," while Stereogum praised the album as a whole, noting that "Altar Of Harmony just might be the salve you need to calm your nerves in these trying times."
The New York Times also weighed in on the album, writing that "Altar of Harmony turns away from country and Americana, toward ambient and new-age music that luxuriates in his instrument’s edgeless tones and otherworldly sustain." Rolling Stone did the same: "On Altar of Harmony... the Ohio native gives the instrument an ambient makeover across an instrumental suite of songs that range from soothing and placid to cosmic and rapturous." Bandcamp had similar sentiments in their extensive profile of Schneider, noting that "Altar of Harmony is most often absorbing and steadying... as immersive but expansive as a day perched on a mountain’s shoulders, staring out on the flats below."
The history of new age music from south of the Mason-Dixon line is largely a secret one. But the south is where we find one of the genre's most important distributors —New Leaf, in Kentucky, some of its most accomplished synthesists — Don Robertson, Geoffrey Newhall, William Linton, amongst others, and acoustic musicians like PC Davidoff and George Tortorelli. It is the home of countless spiritual retreats, intentional communities, and other signifiers of alternative spiritual life.
But until now, there have never been any particular regional characteristics that can be assigned to southern new age music. Until now, there has never been any crossover between country and new age.
And so —all of the sounds heard on this album were made with a 1967 Emmons Push/Pull pedal steel guitar in Nashville, Tennessee.
This recording, which can justifiably be described as "new age" in the most essential sense, represents a radical new approach to the versatile and cosmic instrument of the steel guitar. The closest antecedents may be sculptural sounds of Francesco's Cosmic Beam, or Constance Demby's Sonic Steel Space Bass. But unlike these invented instruments, the pedal steel is steeped in tradition. This is something new under the sun, a total reinvention of an iconic instrument. Quite literally, there has never been anything else quite like it.
But more than a mere piece of invention —Altar Of Harmony is extraordinarily cinematic, an epic musical devotional to higher realms —booming music of the spheres. Regardless of its origins, the expression unmistakable. This is the sound of Valhalla, of heaven, planetary alignment, of total eclipse. This is the sound of an angelic army roaring into battle. This is the heavy metal thunder of the future we were promised. Music for the end of the world. At very least, music of transformation. Sunset on the old way of life, sunrise on the new.
Luke Schneider was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1980. He was named after Paul Newman's character in the film Cool Hand Luke. He cut his teeth playing with artists like Margo Price and Caitlin Rose. A popular session player, he has, at the age of 40, taken the extraordinary step of transforming himself into a solo artist, the main attraction. Third Man Records put out a new age album. Play this record to find out why.
-Douglas Mcgowan (Yoga Records, Numero Group)
Altar Of Harmony track list:
2. Lex Universum
5. Mundi Tuum Est
7. Invicta Affectio