Palms Palms2013 Ipecac Recordings
A project like Palms almost sounds too be good to be true. An unexpected musical alliance that makes so much sense, even though it never seemed obvious prior to its inception. As with any so-called ‘supergroup’ though, this pairing between Deftones, etc. frontman Chino Moreno and former Isis members Jeff Caxide, Aaron Harris and Bryant Clifford Meyer does have its caveats.
The mind may immediately picture Moreno‘s tortured wails searing through the monolithic devastation that Isis (and to a larger extent Neurosis) helped to popularize. Unfortunately this is not the case as Palms is a melodic adventure above all.
In many ways it is an exploratory listen. One where marathon length harmonies are left to slowly unspool. It certainly has a gentle, wistful touch as the relaxed instrumentation undulates alongside Moreno‘s routinely hushed verses.
Fluidity is seemingly key for the band as movement is persistent, though rarely forceful. It’s at times entrancing and hypnotic and at others a numbing drone. Lush jangling guitar work and conflicted atmospherics rise and fall in an oceanic (pun not intended) fashion.
Stiff percussion cuts through the fog as Moreno floats in and out of focus all while thick bass lines lay down a plodding foundation. It’s just as dreamy as you’d think, with Moreno rarely raising his voice outside of the strained closing moments of “Shortwave Radio“.
Given the volume of the material and its overall density, Palms is for the committed rather than the casual. A complex, mixture of hazy post-rock, new wave minimalism and heaps of ambiance (think Sigur Rós.) Its breadth can make it overbearing, yet its rewards are numerous.
An admitted lack of songwriting variety is perhaps its Achilles heel; but given that the group eschew traditional structuring, this is to be expected. More concerning though is Moreno‘s unintended role as the proverbial outsider when placed with a trio of musicians who know each others intricacies. As such, there is a tendency for the singer to merely add his own proverbial aural punctuation to someone else’s sentences, rather write them for himself.
At its true core this debut is a sleepy, ponderous journey. Instrumental evolution purposefully occurs at a lumbering pace, and momentum is established as organically as possible. With that being the case, the material is not essentially riveting—though it has many moments where it enshrouds the listener in its warmth
A wholly interesting—if somewhat creatively unsure—union built out of mutual respect; “Palms” may yet be unable to tap into its full potential, but it plants deep roots for what is hopefully a robust future.