It’s the paradox of originality: to produce original work, an artist must know everything that they’re trying to avoid copying. They must, in effect, copy the originality of other works in their field. This is the problem with which Hudson, New York’s Palm grapple on their latest release, Ostrich Vacation.
JMC Aggregate, who released the tape as part of a series of six short albums, describes Palm’s release as a “collage of music and sounds” on their bandcamp, and it’s an appropriate metaphor. The album features only two tracks; at roughly fifteen minutes apiece, each spans three songs and one side of tape. The songs themselves slide across borders—sounds jostle and compete for attention. Opener “Dime” begins in medias res with synthesized percussion samples. The samples last for only a few seconds before cutting to a faint tape echo that grows into Palm’s more familiar droning riffs and hypnotic vocals. By the end of the track, those washed out chords give way suddenly to more synth that snakes its way into the spiky riffs of “Drift.” These rapid shifts between loosely-connected ideas recall a trip through a Palm-curated radio spectrum
The album reaches its frenetic peak at the track break between “Small Mouth” and the title track. “Small Mouth” lays down a melodic groove only to harsh it with hints of discordant guitar that preview what’s to come: a breakdown of the song’s structure into a pop collage that recalls a PC Music track as it incorporates the album’s interstitial synth samples. “Ostrich Vacation,” more reserved in instrumentation, picks up on the juxtapositional themes explored in “Small Mouth.” Drummer Hugo Stanley provides a stable counterpoint to guitarist Kasra Kurt’s unpredictable vacillations between groovy melodies and feedback freakouts. Change is the only constant on Ostrich Vacation.
Ostrich Vacation binds disparate sounds into a cohesive whole. A collage is a work of simultaneity, of individual parts that are, in their juxtaposition, both close together and far apart. Palm’s latest is a collage par excellence, a release that constantly challenges its own borders, threatening to become something more akin to mixtape than album. Palm, exceedingly competent musicians and curators, overcome that threat. Sounds that should not work together do, and, as in many works of singular originality there’s pleasure to be found discovering how and why.