By Faith Vara
Have you ever wondered what a band would sound like without traditionally learning how to play their instruments? Well look no further than Philadelphia’s experimental art-rock band, Palm. On the surface, Palm might look like a normal band: two guitars, a bass, drums and a couple singers. But if you listen to anything the group has released, it becomes clear that this band is definitely anything but normal. In fact, this band deviates so far from the norm that I can truly say I’ve never heard anything that sounds remotely similar to their music.
What separates this band from other experimental groups is their background in music. Out of the four members of the group, the drummer is the only one that has had some previous experience playing their instrument. The two guitarists learned how to play by simply just creating sounds they enjoyed hearing, while the bassist only started playing his instrument when he was asked to join the band. To most, this would probably seem like a recipe for disaster. However, Palm has managed to establish a sound that is completely their own, and it’s all thanks to their very limited musical background.
What’s most interesting about this group is how complicated their music sounds for how simple their approach actually is. Palm claims to play “rock music backwards,” and after indulging in their discography, their message has only gotten clearer. Often times their songs set the bass and drums as the foreground, while its two guitarists establish the rhythmic patterns. Additionally, members will sometimes modify their instrument’s sound until they give off only a passing resemblance to their expected sounds. They also play in such complex rhythms that it becomes hard to believe that they weren’t traditionally trained in music.
Take their song “Dog Milk” for example. The track is filled with a twitchy percussion rhythm that underlies a grounded bass line, a guitar loop that sounds like a steel drum and backing vocals that burst through the chaos; each sounding like they’re grooving to their own beat. Upon listening to this track for the first time, I became frustrated with not being able to keep up with the constantly changing rhythms that frequently overlap each other. However, the deeper I dove into their discography, the more I began to understand the unconventional simplicity of the music.
Palm doesn’t make music with the intention of it being complicated, they simply just make music that feels right to them. There’s no technicalities to their sound, there’s no set time signature they like to write in and there’s no preconceived notion of what they want their music to sound like. This unorthodox approach to making music is what has kept me so interested in Palm; it’s almost as if their creativity has no rules.
For a huge music theory nerd like myself, I find it freeing listening to their music because I know not to get hung up on the technicalities of their sound. I’ve began to see them as this sort of musical juxtaposition that I didn’t know I needed; their music is an organized chaos that’s created in a complicatedly simple way.
It’s not very often that you come across a band that makes a world for itself. It’s what I look for as a music fan. I want to be transported into another realm where the music plays by its own rules and sounds. Sure, it may sound weird and “otherworldly” at first, but after a few listens, the payoff comes and you can speak the band’s new language. Regardless if you’re one for experimenting or not, there’s no denying Palm’s uniqueness in both what they create and how they create it.