Monday, 18 February 2013

Palm Desert - Rotten Village Sessions (album review)

Rough and red walls thrust upward, reaching with stumped cliffs toward a cloudless sky.  Bone-filled caves, patiently opportunistic carrion buzzards and octopedal insects the only companions to a wind-screamed lonesomeness.  'Rotten Village Sessions' is an evocation of the desert through the medium of the fuzzbox.

While it may or may not be fair to claim that Palm Desert's latest offers nothing new to the genre of fuzz / stoner / desert rock (more on that front later, read on), it is fair to say that they are standing confidently and competently astride the shoulders of giants, having learned their lessons well from the towering figures of the genre.  There ain't nothing wrong with that, not at all.  They have perfectly captured the desert rock sound, including the loose feeling of Kyuss and Desert Sessions albums granting the music an organic quality, as though each composition has a life of its own that the band does not even try to control or stand in the way of.  They are like the classic writers of a bygone age, receiving broadcasts from on high, merely recording divine communications.  Thankfully, Palm Desert's music does not run amok of the band and the songs are generally well behaved.  No section overstays its welcome even while each section of music is fully explored and exploited to fullest effect.

It's worth noting that the album was produced by the band's drummer / manager Kamil Ziolkowski who also does the cover photography and provides additional guitars.  The multi-talented Ziolkowski does a little bit of everything for the band and always seems to deliver the perfect funk-laced beat with the right balance of cymbal crashes.  As producer, always gets the most out of Jan Rutka's bass, whose thick and ropey tones become the focal point of the music, allowing Piotr Lacny's guitar to flow atop and paint pictures.  Ziolkowski is also the drummer for Polish sludge band O.D.R.A., whose 'Karl Denke Blües' album is monstrously good as well.

'Rotten Village Sessions' is full of highlights.  "Damn Good", "Down the Odyssey" and "Acid Phantom" all qualify as such and would be standout tracks on most albums in the genre, but it's the little moments that hook into me.  When I'm looking for something a little older to listen to years down the road, I'll remember this album.  I'll remember the fuzz and the aforementioned ropey bass and the tasteful use of crash but what will really stick out in my memory are the short sketchy interludes "Ghulassa Saloon" and "Orbitean".  I may not remember what they sound like, looking back years from now, but I will remember that they exist, that they are a part of this album, that they were little bursts of creativity that could not be left out of the sequencing.  I'll remember the idea of them and how they contributed immensely to the comfortably loose feel of the album.  These are balanced by the two long songs that bookend the album, "Down the Odyssey" and "White Wolf", all of which help remind the listener not to cage their creations.  If a song wants to be long, let it be long and if a thirty second drum clip finds its way onto the album, let it be.  And if there's still room left, tack on a nice bluesy acoustic riff with a slight country twang to close it out.  This album has a lot to say about how it's done and could be an invaluable lesson to other bands and musicians coming up, just saying.

If stoner / desert rock is what you're looking for, well ... you've just found it.  Palm Desert speak the language of stoner and desert rock fluently.  Kyuss-era Homme-an tone to the guitar and song structures with flights of epic fancy giving a great and greasy, loose feel to the recordings.  They've got cowbell in tasteful supply and floor tom marches with heavy crash.  They've got everything the stoner rocker is looking for and then some.  In the end, it may appear on the surface that Palm Desert's 'Rotten Village Sessions' is a typical stoner album, heavy on the crash and fuzz, paying endless tribute to the greats of the genre, but beneath the desert sand, just under the surface is something truly unique.  It may take some digging, but that something will eventually emerge and stand fully revealed to the listener.  This band has heart and soul and I think it's fair to say that they are standouts within the genre.  This is a terrific album which starts strong and improves with every listen.

Highlights include: "Damn Good" and "Acid Phantom"

Rating: 4.5/5

Total Run Time: 47:31

From: Wrocław, Poland

Genre: Stoner Rock, Desert Rock

Reminds me of: DSW, Kyuss, Routes, The Shooters

Release Date: January 4, 2013

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Creating a makeshift desert in your backyard by spilling the sand from the sandbox and/or (unsoiled!) kitty litter, or failing that, evicting the children from the local park and wandering the playground searching hopelessly for water.

Better Review:
Ride With the Devil
Dr. Doom's Lair

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