Album Reviews

Date Palms – The Dusted Sessions

(Thrill Jockey) UK release date: 3 June 2013

Date Palms - The Dusted Sessions Inspired by a trip to the Yuba River and apparently the Eureka Dunes, Date Palms’ latest effort is a long and winding attempt to create a sonic monument to the staggering beauty of those landscapes.

At the core of the band is Gregg Kowalsky’s electronics and Marielle Jakobsons’s violin and flutes, but recently Date Palms have expanded their line up to include Ben Bracken, Noah Phillips and Michael Elrod. The addition of these players and the instrumentation that they bring (electric guitar, bass and tanpura) has, as might be expected, added considerable scope to the band’s sound, but their presence is far from overbearing.

If anything, The Dusted Sessions is one incredible, immersive trip to a land of sun, sand and cosmic insight that drones with a disarmingly gentle intensity. At the heart of the album are the Yuba influenced tracks which slowly unfurl like petals opening up to the sun. Yuba Source Part I introduces the album with a sound like gravel swirling in a gold prospectors tray. Inititally abrasive and curiously aquatic, the track develops with a basic bass line and some wailing guitar interjections that add an almost Southern States twang. With Elrod’s droning tanpura, there’s a distinctly mystical mood that pervades, but it’s Jakobsons’s violin that leads the band like a solitary voice in the wilderness. Kowalsky’s Fender Rhodes adds colour as the song builds, conjuring a shimmering desert feel as it does so. A river might run through the heart of the inspiration of these songs, but the primary sense invoked by the band is one of intense heat and the torpor it provokes in even the most hardy when the sun hangs in the sky.

After the brief electronic interlude of Six Hands To The Light, the Yuba journey continues again with Yuba Source Part II. Date Palms rework the motifs of Part I wonderfully, making everything feel slightly looser by allowing the Rhodes and the electronic nuances to the fore. In doing so, this take on the Yuba feels slightly shaded and more welcoming, as if it was conceived on the banks of the river rather than directly beneath the baking sun.

The dense drone of Night Riding The Skyline seems to find Date Palms somewhere else entirely, possibly traversing the cosmos, as the electronics that drift in occasionally hint at lazer fire from a ’70s sci-fi B-movie. When the scattering drums and thundering bass take over only to be joined by guitar howls and keyboard passages, they drift into Pink Floyd territory for a moment. It’s presence at the centre of the album is a little jarring. Coming after the evocation of glorious landscape and baking sun, a journey into electro-space is unexpected. The addition of the violin recalling the motifs of the Yuba movements is a nice touch, uniting the songs despite their clear differences.

Dusted Down finds the band alone in the desert staring at the sun. With heavy bass tones driving the song, it’s similar in tone to OM‘s droning bass escapades. Exodus Due West wraps the album up with woozy electronics, providing a shifting backdrop for haunting flute, daunting tanpura and an incessant bass pulse. There’s something rather ominous about it all, with the bass sounding like a pulse ready to stop, and the flute hovering like an opportunistic bird. It’s haunting but also ever so slightly creepy. A strange end possibly, but The Dusted Sessions seeks to encapsulate the essence of the vast landscapes the band experienced and does so quite incredibly.

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Date Palms – The Dusted Sessions