Okay, disclaimer: I am a huge Palm Trees fan. I saw them play probably a year ago at the Handsome Daughter for the first time. They totally blew me away and caught my mind’s eye. They had a full band, almost too big for the stage at the Daughter. I’ve been listening since.
I knew I’d be into it when I saw they had a 22-minute song on Bandcamp. I’m a fan of prog, long songs, music that takes me on trips, and stuff that blends a number of instruments.
At the Good Will on Thursday, they filled out the stage perfectly. They had a seven piece band consisting of an electric bassist, a stand-up bassist, a violinist, a drummer, a guitarist/keys/trumpet player, a keys/vibraphone player, and another guitarist/keys player. I’ve never seen the stage at the Good Will so full. They started with one of the songs off their new EP, and their entire set lasted about an hour. They played like four songs.
I was on cloud nine. I had the chance to listen to the masters about a week beforehand at Gluck’s (the drummer’s) place. I was SO excited. When we listened, there was about four of us in the living room, and we all just tilted our heads back on the couches and took it in. Let our faces and minds and muscles to limp, soft, and listened. And it’s a lot to absorb.
Palm Trees orchestrates a space through their music. They’re fairly soundscape-y. They use a number of textures as well as tones and sounds in their music. On the album, you can hear little rhythmic sounds repeating throughout the song behind all the instrumental build and special notes. I’m not sure exactly how they do it. But I do know that they do it so well that I can drift away into alternative universes filled with that sort of magnetic vibration that pulls you closer towards someone you’ve never met but always found interesting, or filled with that soft warm comfort that keeps you in bed late on cold winter mornings, or that strong character flavour when you mix rich sweet with bitter.
Their sound is even more enveloping live. I think live performance lends to their sort of music. I mean, in terms of sound, I think live performance lends. You can hear each instrument so directly. It’s a little less filtered than a studio album, which has probably been mastered really nicely and carefully crafted. Live, you get the raw. You get the small details of each instrument. There’s small bits… I’m not sure exactly how to describe. Like the texture of toast? Or the small details of an experience that come through when you’re listening to instruments directly in front of you.
Palm Trees sounds very intentional. They sound purposeful with each note they play. Each beat and rhythm that comes forth from the group as a whole purposefully builds this structure of sound around your mind and heart to take shelter in. I have a hunch they’re just as intentional with the sound of each instrument, too.
I often listen to them walking home late at night, or when I’m falling asleep, or when I want to let my mind go gently out one ear and off into space.
The standup bass tones sound conversational in their songs sometimes, like a new voice piping in. The trumpets too come in at times, gently, and create another layer to the conversation between sounds. I find the keys take the spotlight in most songs, controlling the direction and guiding the shapes into a coherent song. Through dynamic ranges and subtle builds.
Listening live on Thursday, the builds really fuckin’ got to me. Palm Trees is music to get invested in. Like, you ought to wait for three to five minutes to get to the really juicy parts. And standing in the Good Will on Thursday, when they got to those juicy parts. If I could, I’d literally be vibrating. Like maybe vibrating fast enough that I kind of float a little bit, or send little shocks through the crowd and people next to me. I got moving. Brian had said we could bring a pillow, but by the peak of the song, I was nearly throwing my hair around. Dancing. Feet and hips and hair and all.
As a band, they’ve got high musicianship. Each member is a strong musician. I’d heard from a couple bandmates that they weren’t sure people would be into it, because it’s so slow, so soundscape-y. But the Good Will filled up that night. People even sat down on the floor of the bar to listen comfortably. The place was pretty packed. I wasn’t surprised, but I was impressed. I think they were a bit impressed too.
A few of us had initially planned to bring pillows and onesies and just start a cuddle puddle in the middle of the bar. I don’t think it wound up happening for two reasons:
- We’d have to carry pillows around with us for the night
- we thought the bar floor might be dirty.
Seems it would have come in handy though.
Raina Galadriel Moon
Raina opened the evening. She was in good company that night, with Mahogany Frog (+ 2 Catamounts) and Animal Teeth also played. I think she was a great way to start the evening, bring everyone into the space, set a tone for the night, and have a simple enough set up. She stood in front of six keys rigs as she performed.
I’ve fallen asleep to the sound of Galadriel’s voice a number of times. It’s great. She’s got a strong voice. Strong enough to perform unaccompianed at the Good Will. She finished her set with a little opera bit, and I could see where this strong voice comes from. I would suspect she has some real training.
I would go on, but I feel she’s got more to show and I’d like to leave that as a future possible writing project…