It’s not even November, but the musical landscape of 2023 already feels like it’s time to play catch up on what’s been missed while also fretting about how much is still to come. It’s time to get a jump on the former, though, as this packed year has left more than a few deserving albums sitting by the sidelines in terms of coverage. Earlier in the year I’d written about Steve Palmer’s split with Modern Folk Trio, but Palmer has another excellent offering in the coffers this year as well. Paired with fellow Minneapolis-based guitarist Matt Beachey, Palmer has formed Slow Clarity. The pair follows up a 2016 tape for Cabin Floor Esoterica with the corroded ramble of Holding Pattern — a record that chews on the gristle jettisoned by guitar traditionalists while pushing much further into areas of noise, electronics, and psychedelia.
The record shares a certain headspace with what Daniel Bachman has been doing down South, but with less of a tendency to peel back the layers of modern societal rot. Still, the record works within the traditional construct — fingerpicked guitars, sparring for one another’s attention, rifling through the Windham Hill and Takoma woodpiles — then begins to pick them apart with a fractured glee. The record bounces Palmer and Beachy’s rippled runs through mirrored hallways, then layers on dust like Xerox triplicates shuttled through the lens to VHS with a loose vertical hold. The album plays with memory, perhaps not in such a studious way as Leyland Kirby, but with similar intentions. The record winds its way around the listener like a long loved classic caught in the spools of an ’87 Ranger’s tape deck, the new creases and curls adding a distorted warp to recollections of once pristine patter. Was it ever as clear as you remember? Is the music corroding or are the memories doomed to deteriorate the moment they’re formed?
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