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Album Review: TBA

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Album Review: Palms – Palms

Rip out the gnarled beasties that lurked within ISIS, the howling, human cyclone that was Aaron Turner and the sudden, throaty wall-of-sound guitar that Michael Gallagher was capable of, and you’re left with a bit of a soft touch. However, throw in the unique, game-changing voice of Deftones’ Chino Moreno and suddenly you have an excitingly fresh, dynamic combo that offers the potential for something truly special. Early run-throughs of this, Palms’ self-titled debut, reveals that the heart of ISIS still beats on and within Jeff Caxide (bass), Aaron Harris (drums) and Bryant Clifford Meyer (keys and guitars) it appears to be beating more strongly than ever. The dark, brooding anger of their old band may be gone, but retention of emotion is still their raison d’être and this thing is flooded with it.

With everything kept in-house, right down to the production and mixing duties (handled by Harris), the overall tone is immediately familiar. ISIS’ burnt-out, skidding instrumentals meet Chino’s gorgeous croon head on and the end result, although being way more lush than expected, is littered with moments that remove your capacity for resisting emotion and motion – your heads will nod, your hair will stand on end and your spine will shiver.

Doing justice to the impact that “Future Warrior” has made on this reviewer is a tough ask. With its cogently circular verse, bridge and chorus, it is a creation that is about as tangibly close to being populist as these artists would ever dare travel, and yet it resists any of the finer trappings of the mainstream by remaining beyond the reach of those fashionistas with their prerequisite short-attention spans. God forbid they ever release a radio edit though – it could make and break them all at once. Chino’s vast vocal range, from deep, softly-whispered croaks to piercing, divergent, anguished howls, beautifully complements the warm, haunting tones and creamy textures of the strings and keys, lifting them from the warm, crystal-clear waters of their birthplace to the heavenly skies above.

The difference between the similarly luscious, soft-hearted tracks “Shortwave Radio” and “Tropics” and the rougher, electro edges of “Mission Sunset” is marked. The latter, dark of purpose, burns with a slowly-released reserve of buzzing energy and clanging melancholy. The first signs of imperfection crop up here as the vocal and backing do jar a little in places, almost like two pieces from different puzzles, wedged together. “Antarctic Handshake” isn’t faultless either and although it truly is suitably spartan and determinedly steady of pace, the tone remains unnvervingly warm as pastel vocals are brushed back and forth across a gentile, yet vibrant backdrop. At nigh on 10 minutes, it is mostly just filler, spending much of its running time warbling within its watery repose, rebounding back off its own walls and doesn’t age at all well.

It would be harsh to expect this debut release to be wholly organic, but it is an interesting novelty to discover the oddly digital, viscous quality that lurks within. As much as you loved Deftones gritty, subversive edge or ISIS’ heaviosity, this ambient-minded collective are, as Chino suggests on “Shortwave Radio”, just as capable of offering you both polar extremes – “Ascending you to Heaven whilst staring into Hell / You’re staring into Heaven, descending into Hell”.

Also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2013/06/palms-palms-ipecac/
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