Steve Palmer: “Unblinking Sun” Review
It is likely that in some corner, some basement, or in some bar you’ve never heard of; guitarist Steve Palmer first cut his teeth performing and refining his style of guitar playing. It probably took years of effort and hours of stops, starts, frustrations, and tears. Wherever that likely happened though is a mystery. In the Twin Cities he seems to have emerged already fully formed as a virtuoso player. Perhaps that is due in some part to the fact that he studied under the legendary guitarist Peter Lang. Whatever the reason, Palmer’s new album Unblinking Sun, which he recorded on his own at home, is really terrific.
Palmer is a self-described Fahey obsessive, and in Unblinking Sun it certainly shows. The album is full of finger-picked experimental primitivism. It also, however, displays quite a bit of breadth in style – and doesn’t always adhere to what one might expect from a Fahey aficionado. “Cassini” for instance, is a krautrock groove that combines ethereal guitar layers over a hypnotic beat. Much of the material though, Fahey would have no doubt felt right at home with. “Plastic Mouth” is an Eastern-inflected ocean of noise made by shimmery strings, beats, guitar and tambourine. “Banjo Burner” is pretty much what it sounds like, evolving slowly into a squall of multi-layered noise. And doubtlessly Fahey would recognize “Stomping Tonight on the Pennsylvania Alabama Border” a cover of his own blues tune, complete with the ghostly chords of Skim James’ “Devil Got My Woman.”
Palmer navigates thematic changes and style shifts throughout Unblinking Sun flawlessly, maneuvering blues chords, psychedelic flourishes, and layer upon layer of sound with a hand that never waivers. Though each tune is a broad sonic exploration, Palmer can always be felt at the tiller, keeping each song on a course that never strays too far into the chaos that seems to linger just outside the frame. Palmer may have studied under Lang, he might be obsessed with Fahey, but he seems well on his way to becoming a legend in his own right.
Order Unblinking Sun from Dying for Bad Music