REVIEW: Luke Schneider’s “Altar of Harmony” Takes Pedal Steel to a Different Realm

Reviews

Pretty much everyone reading this loves pedal steel, or we wouldn’t be here. Imagine, though, a Venn diagram labeled “Pedal steel lovers,” “Americana Highways readers” and “New age music enthusiasts.” I’m guessing we’d see a pretty small intersecting set. However, Ohio’s Luke Schneider has set out to change that. A longtime touring and session player (he’s performed with Margo Price and Orville Peck, among others), he’s released a solo album, Altar of Harmony, intent on taking pedal steel to an entirely different realm.

The most remarkable aspect of Altar of Harmony is the fact that EVERY sound on the record comes from Schneider’s 1967 Emmons Push/Pull pedal steel guitar. It’s an absolute reimagining of a traditional Nashville instrument, rendering it almost unrecognizable from what you’d hear from a sawdust-covered dance floor. The wordless tunes, bearing Latin titles, evoke a spacey, mostly peaceful mood. “Anteludium” is a fitting opener, feeling like a prelude to a dusty space opera. “Lex Universum” is one of a few tracks where a more traditional steel sound appears, and that lingers into the next cut, “Somnificus.” “Exspirio” even has what might be termed a short solo.

The album is made for dark rooms and headphones, but its trippiest moments occur on “Mundi Tuum Est,” as Schneider’s creative playing swirls about the listener’s head. “Umbra” actually possesses a bit of a beat – maybe the record will find the dance halls, after all. And “Derelictico” draws this unique record to a dramatic close, theatrical to the end..

Altar of Harmony can be streamed here: https://orcd.co/altarofharmony

Limited edition cassettes are available here: https://lukeschneider.bandcamp.com/

Vinyl, available June 19, can be pre-ordered here: https://thirdmanstore.com/altar-of-harmony-standard-black-vinyl

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