Review: Sand Snowman - Two Way Mirror (2009)


CD cover

CD cover

LP cover

LP cover

artist: Sand Snow­man
release: Two Way Mir­ror
format: 2xCD / LP
year of release: 2009
label: tone­float
dur­a­tion: 1:27:10

detailed info: dis​cogs​.com.

Things have been going fast for Sand Snow­man in the past few years. The london-based Irish gui­tar­ist and com­poser has gone from sev­eral obscure MP3 and CDr releases to much more, evid­enced by the rerelease of the albums “i’m not here” and The Twi­light Game on vinyl by tone­float records. This cooper­a­tion proves to be a fruit­ful one, as this, the new album, is again released by the Dutch label, this time both on double CD and the good old high-quality vinyl. The 2CD is a premiere for tone­float, which is tra­di­tion­ally a vinyl label, and it includes a bonus album called The Mag­pie House. This is also the edi­tion under review here.

The change from very lim­ited releases to a more pro­fes­sional out­put coin­cides with the musical growth of Sand Snow­man. He was search­ing for a unique devel­op­ment of his own sound on the earlier works, which con­tained some imper­fec­tions still. Two Way Mir­ror, how­ever, marks the project’s mat­ur­a­tion. The style is essen­tially the same: acous­tic gui­tar com­pos­i­tions ran­ging from the folky and ambi­ent to the exper­i­mental and mod­ern classical-influenced. Added to this are subtle synths, flute, piano, per­cus­sion, and a var­ied range of (some­times poly­phonic) vocals. Moon­swift has been a return­ing singer on earlier albums, but this time she is joined by the likes of Jason Nin­nis and Steven Wilson on guest vocals. The male vocals add a great amount of new moods to the already quite var­ied sound of the pro­ject.

The main album itself is not too long, fit­ting eas­ily on one LP, but con­tains a very nice range of musical styles, waver­ing between pro­gress­ive folk­rock, exper­i­mental ambi­ent, and much more. The bonus disc is also quite worth­while, expand­ing on the instru­mental com­pos­i­tions by Sand. It is not as catchy or upfront as the main part, per­haps, but its dream­like ambi­ent qual­ity is very good non­ethe­less. So good in fact, that it seems a shame that it is only avai­able in CD ver­sion. I love vinyl, and tone­float vinyls are made with love as well, so in a way it’s too bad you have to miss out on The Mag­pie House is you opt for the LP. A con­sol­a­tion is the fact that the CD edi­tion is housed in what is basic­ally a mini-gatefold made out of sturdy card­board, and with excel­lent lay­out by Carl Glover. In that sense, it feels like a tiny double LP.

Regard­less, it’s safe to say that Two Way Mir­ror is Sand’s best album to date, and a test­a­ment to his unique style of play­ing and com­pos­ing. The album is a truly ori­ginal work of mod­ern acous­tics, and highly recom­men­ded to any­one who is open to a mix­ture of prog, folk, and ambi­ent.

Reviewed by O.S.

Tracks:

Two Way Mir­ror:
1.1 The Butcher’s Hook (5:49)
1.2 I Spy (3:45)
1.3 Faded Flowers (5:21)
1.4 A Vis­ion On The Green (2:43)
1.5 Matry­oshka, Muse Of Mis­rule (1:51)
1.6 Mir­rors (8:23)
1.7 River­run (2:48)
1.8 Neur­otic Zoo (3:27)
1.9 Kites (4:48)

The Mag­pie House:
2.1 The Tower (9:15)
2.2 Mag­pie House (3:12)
2.3 The Memory Box (7:10)
2.4 Har­le­quin (3:51)
2.5 Lam­mas Meadow (2:31)
2.6 Quarter Circle (5:00)
2.7 Earth Inferno (4:31)
2.8 Untitled (12:45)