Palm is a noisy-yet-elegant rock outfit from Hudson, NY who holed up for a few months in October to produce a new album entitled Ostrich Vacation. Previously, we’ve seen two EPs from these guys via our buddies Sad Cactus Records; each release had 3 tracks, making for a pretty symmetrical listening experience if you had both of ’em on your iPod. Ostrich Vacation is similarly symmetrical, but mostly in that it’s organized around the sides of a cassette tape (released via JMC aggregate) instead of being neatly divided track-by-track for digital listening. I don’t mind the change in pace – sometimes it’s nice to be forced to do a full album listen, you know? I can only hope others will share my enthusiasm. Read on, babes.
If I was going to characterize this album in one word, that word would be entropy. It distinguishes itself from other feels-y New York bands with a blend of constant chaos, atonality, driving rhythm and somehow also mellow Battles-esque (or totally original, it seems) deconstruction segments. Sampled riffs begin each section in a coy and disorienting way – the first side ends with a chipmunked ending to a song with an audience screaming in impossibly high tones. Very endearing, at least to a Madlib fan like me. It’s kind of hard to tell where one ‘song’ (each side of the album features 3 or 4 track names) begins and ends, but it seems that the names of the songs aren’t quite as important as the feels being evoked by these sonic lunatics. There’s a reason why this album is referred to as “a collage of music and sounds” – it’s not strictly musical at all points, which is a trait I admire in guitar music. Sometimes I’m sick of just hearing the changes, you know?
The second side of the album begins with a continuation of chaotic doubled guitar parts / driving drum beats, but now it’s got a much more pleasant bassy distortion and a fuller drum sound. Since this second side begins with the title track, we can assume that this sound is the theme of the release in some fundamental way. It’s also a consistent sound for those who are already Palm fans – I’ve grown used to harshness rewarded by mellow understated resolutions, it’s a moodiness that I’ve come to love in a very specific way. I do miss the vocals, though – lead singer Eve really did the lion’s share of winning me over as a Palm fan. We get a little of her vocal harmonizing at the six-minute mark of the second side, but it’s just a teaser. I’m definitely the first guy to appreciate an instrumental album over a vocal one, though. All in all, Ostrich Vacation is a well-rounded release which challenges the listener and displays the many-faceted new frontiers Palm are prepared to explore together. I would write more words, but I mean… it’s probably fine if you just form your own opinions. You don’t need my judgments on whether I liked this atonal chord or that one better. Actually, I guess I do have one closing note: the album ends in a slowed-down guitar-jangle amalgam which concludes in an open E (I think), which is basically the sound of a guitarist tuning. Very amusing to anyone who has ever jammed out in the style of Tu Ning.