Palm, the experimental rock/pop band from Philadelphia, has a newly released LP called Rock Island. The band takes pride in the complexity and variance in their sound; which is evident, with melodies overlapping and other digital techniques that leave the viewer disoriented.
As arresting as that may be, the album is incredibly original. You really won’t find another that comes close to this.
Rock Island is aptly named due to the Caribbean steel-drum sounds featured on practically every song. This instrumental component adds to the aforementioned intricacy, but it also becomes a stabilizing force, acting like the rhythm section in many ways. The most obvious example of this is on the track “Composite,” where the drums are mimicked by the bright, repetitive tones of the steel-sounding instrument. It gives the music a layered distortion that sounds different every time you listen to it.
Palm are the Masters of Nuanced Sound
A really cool thing that Palm does well is balance the vocals with the cacophony of digital affects. For the most part, the vocals aren’t overloaded with editing; or, at least not distractingly so. There is a distinct stability that has been cultivated that makes sure each is given its moment of importance.
“Pearly” is a great song and has one of the heaviest amounts of digital components, but Eve Alpert’s pure tone vocals are left to stand alone at times and then enhanced by a chorus-like affect in a beautifully strange way.
Rock Island was designed as a place that the band could retreat into their own sound. This makes the album slightly obscure; you aren’t meant to fully comprehend everything. It is almost like those who listen to it are able to observe it from above and see the layout, but not step foot on it. For that, it is accessible and is perfect for those who like a bit of mystery in their music.
In another way, you are witnessing mad scientists experimenting with sound and technology, which is what makes bands like Palm so important in not only music but art as a whole. Just listen to “Dog Milk” and it will make sense.
Or maybe it won’t, but at least you are listening to something really great.