Album Appreciation: Useful Histories by Steve Palmer

Steve Palmer is a musician who is new to these ears… a guitarist from Minneapolis, Minnesota who seems to have developed quite a unique style, apparently from having to experiment after adjusting his playing due to an neurological condition. The result here is certainly one where you can imagine the internal rewiring of the brain being writ large in some of the more outré moments of this, his second album.

This is the sort of set that I could listen to all day, because it combines a number of different elements and ways of playing… it seems at times extrovert as some tracks such as those at either end of the album ‘Statesboro Day’ and ‘Useful Histories’ feel like live ‘band’ numbers which are played with power and purpose, while others like ‘Squalor’ and ‘Thirty’ feel much more like introverted private reflections which are much more sparse and intense.

Odd one out here is ‘I Am John Titor’, which is a long meditative piece through which you can really imagine Palmer working out the new neural networks… reconnecting and redeveloping… learning and experimenting… This is a track that has a potency and spirit to it which kind of catches you off guard as you hear it. Listen to it closely and you can feel the layers being stripped away and new thoughts and ideas pouring into the fertile new cerebral ground… it’s a drone that feels organic and instinctive.

Having listened to it a few times now I suspect that there is something of Palmer’s recent personal journey wrapped up in the set. Listening to it from start to finish certainly takes you on a journey which seems to start on the surface but seems to delve down into the psyche to increasing degrees, before coming up again at the end. As such I have found it to be a powerful listen and one that I don’t embark on lightly.

‘Useful Histories’ is available now on Sunrise Ocean Bender and Deep Water Acres.



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