ponedjeljak, 5. kolovoza 2013.

Date Palms - The Dusted Sessions (2013)


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Date Palms revolves around the core duo of Gregg Kowalsky (keyboards, electronics) and Marielle Jakobsons (violin, flute, electronics). They employ traditional rock instrumentation to create music informed by Indian classical music, country, minimalism, and spiritual jazz, arriving at a style that is wholly their own. On their third album, The Dusted Sessions, the duo expanded the line-up to include Ben Bracken on electric bass, Michael Elrod on tanpura, and Noah Philips on electric guitar (a first for the band). Kowalsky and Jakobsons are both accomplished solo musicians in their own right: Kowalsky has released ambient albums on Kranky as well as a collaborative release with Josef Van Wissem on Amish, and Jakobsons has released music on the Digitalis and Students of Decay labels. Date Palms uses the sound an imagery of the dustbowl and the American West to express something truly cosmic and unique within the already highly individualistic Bay Area underground.
Inspired by a sojourn to the Yuba River, “Yuba Source” opens The Dusted Sessions like sunrise over the desert. The soft tones of Kowalsky’s Rhodes blend seamlessly with the rhythmic drones of Elrod’s tanpura while Jakobsons’ yearning violin strokes the heavens. The influence of Henry Flynt can be heard in the blown out sound of the amplified violin. As the ideas and spirit of the Yuba River are recalled and reprised throughout the first side, the band inverts the themes of the opener as melancholic and then reflective. “Yuba Reprise” ends with a sense of peace and tranquility, an ending without a goodbye.
The second side of The Dusted Sessions presents a darker vision, heavier in tone and mood. “Dusted Down,” was inspired by the Eureka Dunes, where the Kowalsky and Jakobsons watched dust devils form and slowly traverse the sands. The counterpoint formed by violin and bass mirrors that steady, slow roll of wind across the desert. The final track, “Exodus Due West,” is a hyper-minimal improvised piece consisting of flute, tanpura, and bass, with touches of Semblance analog synthesizer. It offers a feeling of departure and arrival suspended, and The Dusted Sessions fades like twilight cooling expansive stretches of dry wilderness.
The Dusted Sessions was recorded by Phil Manley at LCR in San Francisco, including a session during the annular solar eclipse of May 21st, 2012. The group will be performing throughout the US and Europe as a quintet.

Inspired by a trip to the Yuba River and the Eureka Dunes, Date Palms’ latest record, The Dusted Sessions, is a long and winding study in creating a sonic monument to the staggering beauty of those landscapes.
The core duo of Gregg Kowalsky and Marielle Jakobsons has recently expanded their lineup to include Ben Bracken, Noah Phillips, and Michael Elrod. The addition of these players and the instrumentation they contribute (electric guitar, bass and tanpura, respectively) has, as might be expected, added considerable breadth and depth to the band’s sound, but their presence is far from overbearing.
The Dusted Sessions is actually an immersive sojourn into a land of sun, light, and cosmic wisdom that drones and drones with subtle magnitude. The record centers around three Yuba-inspired tracks that slowly unfurl like a flower opening to the day’s first ray of sun. Initially abrasive and curiously fluid, “Yuba Source Part I” leads with swirling synthesizers and continues to develop with a basic bass line, wailing pedal steel, and crooning violin. It’s in this crystallizing moment where a comparison to Henry Flynt‘s blown up/out violin sound is the most befitting.
With Elrod’s droning tanpura, there’s a distinct East-meets-Southwest raga vibe present, but it’s Jakobsons’ violin that leads the band’s sound into previously uncharted sonic territory. Kowalsky’s Rhodes piano and Bracken’s electric guitar add layers as the song builds, conjuring images of heat shimmers in the distance.
After the brief interlude of “Six Hands to the Light,” the Yuba suite continues with “Yuba Source Part II.” Apparent now is Kowalsky’s and Jakobsons’ classical musical training, as the entire group effortlessly reworks many of Part I’s themes. Electronics and Rhodes are brought into the foreground, allowing a looser, more nuanced song structure.

The dense drone of “Night Riding the Skyline” seems to find Date Palms somewhere else entirely, possibly traversing the cosmos. When scattered electronics and thundering bass are joined by guitar howls and keyboard flourishes, the band momentarily drifts into Agitation Free territory. The sudden introduction of space rock elements after thirty-four minutes of acid country twang is not at all unsettling; rather it is a welcomed transition to the latter atmospheric tracks. The reintroduction of the violin nicely unifies the Yuba movements with the latter space rock-tinged pieces, despite their distinct differences.
The driving bass lines of “Dusted Down” and the hazy synthesizer/flute combination of “Exodus Due West” provide the perfect outro to a highly moody record. The dense stifling heat of the desert is omnipresent on this record, as one would expect with even the most casual of listens. The Dusted Sessions is a strong collection of conceptual, well executed, and immersive music. The hypnotic waves of sound flow into every crack and crevice, into the pores of the listener’s skin and vibrate the walls with resonance. Date Palms marvelously encapsulate the essence of the vast landscapes they experienced, and in turn, deliver a perfect sunbaked piece of minimalist psychedelia. -  

The vast desert of the southwestern U.S. has been an inspiration for musicians in all sorts of traditions. Increasingly it creeps into metal and psych, with late period Earth being a particularly strong example of rock that incorporates Western-style melodies and languid strokes meant to evoke the expanse. There’s something exotic but familiar about it, a beguiling quality that Oakland, CA's Date Palms nail to a tee. Riding a foundation of doom metal, psych rock, and mournful country, the group (now a quintet) led by Gregg Kowalsky and Marielle Jakobsons builds soundscapes with keyboards, mournful slide guitar, sitar, flute and a powerful electric bass. Their second album, The Dusted Sessions, ties together modern explorations of the Wild West with more traditional forms, infused with Americana but not giving into its clichés.
What separates Date Palms from troves of drifting psych rock bands is their distinct sense of composition. These aren’t lengthy jams but painstakingly considered pieces that ebb and flow. The Dusted Sessions centers around a suite inspired by the Yuba River in California, once central to the Gold Rush and home to a vast Native American tribe that was all but wiped out. There’s a careful reverence to the three-part “Yuba Source”, with its central melody that winds wide like the broad curves of the river itself. As the quintet work their way through the track, they’re propped up by monstrous basslines that provide important momentum without ruffling feathers, and a constant sitar that shimmers like a pool of clear fresh water.
The teasing melody of “Yuba Source”-- a simple three note blues phrase-- appears throughout the record, on “Yuba”'s second part and reprise. The group repeat these ideas like mantras, gently echoing so that an idea passes through each instrument as if it were being purified. Jakobsons’ violin, which emerges as the star of the record, takes these melodies and unwinds them out into long, soft strokes while the slide guitar dovetails gracefully beneath.
Each track is defined by a different instrument, however. As tight of a unit as they are, Date Palms are also pretty versatile. On “Dusted Down”, a searing electric guitar rises above the dusty tumult, and on “Exodus Due West” Jakobsons’ reverbed flute haunts the landscape. Kowalsky’s keyboards play an almost equally important role, especially in creating a wall-of-sound effect, as on centerpiece “Night Riding the Skyland”. Especially breathtaking on the latter, the viola merges with the synth before it’s all broken up by the thrust of Noah Philips’ electric guitar, diving head-first into a blues jam that recalls early-70s Pink Floyd and other psychedelic cornerstones.
That they can do all this on a single album is a testament to Date Palms’ ability and control as an ensemble. Even with 11-minute tracks, there’s not a moment that feels wasted; with so many different sounds and ideas invoked over The Dusted Sessions’ 44 minutes, there’s a clear idea at work even if it’s hard to quantify exactly what it is, which is where their brilliance lies. If the idea of Wild West-style slabs of desert rock doesn’t appeal to you, Kowalsky and Jakobsons will pull you in with their teasing melodies and weeping instruments anyway, their sound rough and immense like a sandpaper sky. On The Dusted Sessions they both deconstruct and reinforce the tenets of Americana and make something transcendent in the process. - Andrew Ryce

There’s certainly some talking points leading into Date Palms’ third record, The Dusted Sessions. The duo, Gregg Kowalsky and Marielle Jakobsons, added two new members in tanpura player Michael Elrod and guitarist Noah Phillips. And yes, you can hear the contributions of these new players in exciting ways here. But to talk about the players themselves, or even the instruments, references a physicality that seems foreign to Date Palms’ sound.

In fact, the name of the album – The Dusted Sessions – with its reference to recording dates, to putting players in a room with mics and recording equipment to make this sound, it feels strange. To think of the walls of a studio is to think of a space that can’t seem to contain the sounds on this record. These movements resist even that broad kind of constraint. The dust though is very much here, rolling out in billowing curls across the expanse of these sounds. This is music that creates its own geography, so while the title implies performance, this is stuff that feels more felt than played, more poured out than amplified and recorded.

The songs themselves seem to give us more fitting titles to reveal the album’s intentions. Opening track “Yuba Source I” (it has a companion piece later in the record), puts all the players out there in tribute to the Yuba River, located in the Sacramento Valley. This is the music of wide-open spaces, but also of the river itself. Kowalsky’s keyboards drift in the background in warm phrasings and swirling foundations, while Jakobsons’ violin establishes the bittersweet melody, one of equal parts discovery and awe. The song grows over its 11-minute run time, and eventually Jacobsons’ work bleeds into Phillips slicing guitar and the spacious twang of Elrod’s tanpura. The song doesn’t unravel but rather swells, flowing like the Yuba – one imagines – and while it repeats its themes, you’re left with the feeling that, no matter when you come into the song, you’re never stepping in the same river twice.

This is the kind of ambient but muscles instrumental music that has a kind of inevitability to it. Its success comes, often, not in surprising us with its size – because we already know the ambition of it – but rather in the sheer execution of it, in the precision of something that seems, on its surface, so imprecise. So you’re impressed by the soaring groan of “Six Hands to the Light” or the dark swells of “Yuba Reprise”, a shadow to the hazy light of “Yuba Source I”. But while Date Palms do achieve that inevitability of size and sound that so much ambient and post-rock and drone music all go for, it does more than that.

Inside of that swelling size are some smack-in-the-face surprises, some hairpin turns in what feels like a straight and broad path. “Night Riding the Skyline” is the other big piece here, clocking in at nearly 12 minutes, but its feels like its own isolated piece. The guitars no longer groan, they pull on swampy blues riffs, and when the simple, shuffling beat kicks in to propel the sound forward – augmented by Kowalsky’s skittering synth treatments – it’s a revelation, a sort of industrial blues-rock meditation that turns the brightness of the first half of the record on its head, revealing the worry under all that discovery, the fear under all that wide-open freedom. So while you may feel the frustration mounting, you’re still floored by the wall of distorted guitars that blow open “Dusted Down”, the album’s most frenzied performance. It’s a final salvo of order, or emotion formed into bracing shape, before the equally effecting improvisation of the soft closer “Exodus Due West”.

All these moments blend together seamlessly, and yet each feels significant and whole on its own. Despite the physical changes to the band, the physical title of the record, this is more than the sum of a recording session. The Dusted Sessions is a careful and wonderfully executed trip through two sides of discovery, through the sunburst of awe and the shadow it leaves behind – the search for meaning, the smallness of the individual in the world, the knowledge that what was once unknown is now known, different to you merely because you’ve seen it. These are complicate ideas of how we interact with our surroundings and why we seek out new ones. Date Palms capture those ideas brilliantly on this record, boring beautiful little holes in them along the way. -  Matthew Fiander

The strings tell of sadder things hidden among the deceptively tough vegetation of the landscape.

Louder Than War
It’s all good stuff, and if a cult movie classic Westworld was to be remade for the twenty-first century then The Dusted Sessions would be the perfect soundtrack.
The Financial Times
The Dusted Sessions, a trance-like exercise in drone rock in which glimmering pedal-steel visions of America are placed alongside spacey electronics, strung-out riffs and rising and falling ragas.
Consequence of SoundThe Dusted Sessions leaves you unsure of what you’ve just heard, like seeing a natural wonder for the very first time and feeling like a speck in the vastness of it all.

Of Psalms LP (Root Strata, 2010)

Music for the rain forests of the moon, straight out of Oakland CA. ‘Of Psalms’ is the debut album by Date Palms, the duo of Marielle Jakobsons and Gregg Kowalsky. The two have birthed a suite of slowed-down music of the spheres, with a canopy of glowing fog and a heavy narcotic bass pulse that keeps the whole thing rooted straight into the earth. It’s a heady mix of alap paced violin phrases, jewel toned keys, harp swells, distorted tapes and ever present bass waves all crafted with precision detail in a humid space that leaves a dreamy imprint in the mind long after waking. Although separately Jakobsons and Kowalsky have made inroads into these types of landscapes before (Gregg with his Tape Chants series & Marielle with MYRMYR & Darwinsbitch), nothing really compares the world of ‘Of Psalms’ that the two created together with its perfect balance of micro & macro, inner & outer, cosmic & earth bound, casting some sort of old world magic on everyone within range. Edition of 500 LP’s.
"Date Palms is the new project of heavy electronic / cassette tape manipulator Gregg Kowalsky and Marielle Jakobsons (Myrmyr, Darwinsbitch) and is a strange, yet fantastic fusing of Eastern style raga drones, and hypnotic Spacemen 3 style bass buzz, which seems like a weird combo, but it definitely works, situating the Oakland duo right between those two not so disparate (as you might think) sounds, the music almost like some sort of slowcore spacerock dronedrift, writ abstract and minimal and Eastern, if that makes any sense. Sure it’s on Root Strata, and both Date Palms are individually involved in the avant garde, but this could have easily come out on Kranky, or some other similarly outrock label, and these two could totally tour with a band like Low, or Stars Of The Lid, their slow smoldering drift a perfect fit………
Date Palms are channeling the same sort of druggy psychedelic minimalism, but adding that distinctly Eastern element, this opening track sounds like a way slowed down Moon Duo, with the keyboard swapped for some mysterious Indian instrument, and the guitar swapped for a bass, the groove is glacial, and is the perfect anchor for the more abstract buzz and drift…..
The resulting hybrid is absolutely mesmerizing, the sort of rare sound that would appeal to the space rock bliss out crowd as much as the abstract minimal dronemusic crowd. "- Aquarius Records

" ‘Of Psalms’ is the fabulous Root Strata debut of Date Palms, set up by Marielle Jakobsons and Gregg Kowalsky (author of such fine releases as Kranky outing Tape Chants). The label very aptly describes the release as “a suite of slowed-down music of the spheres, with a canopy of glowing fog and a heavy narcotic bass pulse that keeps the whole thing rooted straight into the earth." The album certainly introduces itself in regal style, sinking into a deep, low-end haze with ‘Psalm 7’, a kind of minimalist raga full of bowed strings and commanding bass routines. In addition to some of the more expected experimental reference points, you might be reminded of hazy loveliness of the earliest Air releases, or indeed the latest material from The Alps…. This LP is limited to just 500 copies and comes very highly recommended."- Boomkat

Honey Devash LP (Mexican Summer, 2011)

Based in Oakland, California, Gregg Kowalsky and Marielle Jakobsons share internationally-spanning solo careers as creative practitioners with a solid foundation in drone music composition and performance. However, it is a mutual love for analogue electric sound sources and tape multitracking that has resulted in their psychedelic, trance-inducing collaboration as Date Palms.
Honey Devash, Date Palms’ first release on Mexican Summer, is testament to their captivating skill for layering and balancing timbres into long-form, immersive slow burners. Astonishingly evocative of desert heat, summer nights, dry sandscapes of fuzz bass, fender rhodes, synth, violin, tanpura and feedback shift gradually like dunes in hot winds, as wavering mirages in the distance are picked out through slow melodies on keyboards, piano and flutes. Two tracks of incredibly slow-panning consideration, Honey Devash feels like a hazy meditation on survival; a prolonged buzz of tension and uncertainty melding with simple acceptance as the sun, unrelenting, beats ever down…

Date Palms/Pusle Emitter/Expo 70/Faceplant 4way split 2LP (Immune, 2012)

Interview: Date Palms

Interview: Date Palms
Perhaps you'd call Date Palms a drone band. In the past few years, "drone" has basically come to signifiy the ever-growing taint that links ambient and noise, a linguistically unfaithful term to the minimalism that birthed it. But if we're going to talk minimalism, then in fact the duo of Gregg Kowalsky and Marielle Jakobsons is among the truest to the tag. Their approach is to merge Eastern modes and Western technologies in an attempt to lend form to the abstract-- not unlike minimalism originator La Monte Young. The Dusted Sessions is the group's third album-- their first on Thrill Jockey-- and sees them infusing their meditational style with electric-- notably, not electronic-- catharsis.
Ad Hoc: How has Date Palms evolved since your 2010 debut on Root Strata?
GK: Our first record was a learning experience. We both come from backgrounds in electronic music with our solo projects. I thought it would be interesting to explore something completely different with Date Palms. We wanted the music to be anchored by repetitive bass patterns, with Fender Rhodes lines locking in with violin lines as the main voice. Throwing bass lines into the mix meant we had to work with time signatures, which I have never really done with my solo work. So we learned how to keep things in time without using click tracks, for better or worse. We knew from the beginning we didn't want to use drums on Of Psalms. The bass line held everything together, but we had no drums to play in time with. We realized that this created an untethered or loose vibe, which we liked. The time signature in our heads would slowly shift over the duration of the track. This gives the music a human, organic quality-- playing the tempo that feels right, slowly shifting over time. So, learning how to record the bass and compose the bass lines took us awhile for Of Psalms. Since then, we work much faster and understand our process much better. It also helped that on Honey Devash we used drum machines on each track, which made the writing and recording process much easier.
MJ: Our first two records were recorded in our home studio by overdubbing everything. It was a challenge to take those tracks and perform them live because of all the production. I would switch between violin and bass during a track live, which was a limitation because I couldn't focus on either instrument completely. Over time, we started having friends play bass during shows, and I could focus just on violin. After a while, we expanded into a five-piece, with tanpura and guitar. We had been playing shows around town as a five-piece with friends and we decided to record The Dusted Sessions live in a proper studio, as a live album.
GK: I look at the The Dusted Sessions more like Crazy Horse, which to me is an imperfect band with guys that aren't amazing players (besides Neil) but play with feeling and vibe, and that translates. So, the recording and mixing process was completely new for The Dusted Sessions, and a bit of an experiment.
Ad Hoc: You guys obviously have an overt Eastern influence, but what's up with the Western-- like American Western imagery? Does it have anything to do with the desert as a site of spiritual discovery?
GK: Marielle is from Cleveland and I'm from Florida. We took loads of trips up and down the West Coast over the years and sometimes it would feel like being on another planet. It's still exotic to me after living here for nine years. It is hard to live out here and not be influenced by the surroundings, and anything I create is usually influenced by my surroundings or environment in some way. We spent time in Death Valley and had amazing experiences in the desert, which definitely influenced us. Our music has a California feeling to it because of these experiences; we would not be making this music if we were living in Brooklyn. And, yes, the desert is a spiritual place, and the times we had hanging out in Death Valley, miles from anyone else, were deep.
Ad Hoc: Meditation is often an inner, or at least inwards, experience. What does making meditational music in a group setting entail?
GK: That's a great question. I don't really meditate, but for me, making this music is as close as I get. Our music has always been meditative; as a duo, and now as a five-piece. You really have to get into the zone when playing this stuff and be aware of what everyone else is doing and LISTEN. We all understand that we are playing by feeling and not by time signatures, so we have to be really aware of each other and not just of our own parts. All of our parts are relatively simple, in that they are repetitive patterns, so I think it's easier to go deep and lock into each other's patterns and meditate on the sounds themselves.
MJ: For a band, the members of Date Palms are close friends. We hang out together, go on trips together, make music together. We are all zoning hard when playing but also listening hard to each other, opening up space and getting lost.
Ad Hoc: As a band making abstract music with analog instruments, how do you view your relation to electronically minded peers?
GK: We are electronically minded and have always made music that could be defined as abstract, only now we're not using laptops or samplers, but bass, tanpura, violin, guitar, rhodes and electronics (cassette tapes, effects pedals, etc.). All of our peers are interested in modular synths at the moment. We've used modular synths on some our tracks. I definitely think there is overlap between what we're doing and what our peers are up to. Modular synths were used a lot in the '70s and a lot of what our peers are composing is referencing the electronic music of the '70s. In Date Palms we are also referencing that period, only using rock instrumentation in combination with electronics.
MJ: To me there is really no difference between sounds from an acoustic source or electronic source– in the end it all hits our ears the same way. If you hear a sound and recognize its source as something in the physical world-- say, like a violin-- then there’s something else that happens in the brain that tells us, "Oh hey, that’s this object in the world-- a violin." But just as easily, you could hear the sound of a synthesizer, and think, "Oh hey, that’s this object in the world-- a synthesizer." Then, when the music is good enough, you forget what the source is and just let it transport you somewhere else. At that point, it doesn’t matter where the sound came from-- it's where you go from there.
Ad Hoc: What is your compositional process like? How much does improvisation play into Date Palms' work?
MJ: Some of the songs on The Dusted Sessions were completely improvised in the studio, while others were crafted in the studio as sketches or even complete tracks that were then brought into a live context with the full band. The album as a whole is a sort of “live album” performed in just four days of sessions with Phil Manley at Lucky Cat Studios. Our previous two records relied much more on careful composition, editing and layering of parts. We wanted to allow the magic that emerges as a group to lead the recordings into a new territory that reflected the space we enter playing together. When we perform, there is always an aspect of improvisation. The songs are open, long-form jams that allow for expanding patterns and phrases.  Since the songs are so open, the length of certain sections always changes. We have a basic structure during the performances, but how long we play each section depends on how we are hearing and feeling things in the moment. - adhoc.fm/

Bad Vibes “Questions of Doom with Date Palms"

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