Date Palms, the droned-out, Bay Area-based duo of sound and installation artists Gregg Kowalsky and Marielle Jakobsons, create lasting cinematic soundscapes. With a core consisting of a mix of keyboards, electronics, violins and flutes, the pair unfurls delicate layers of tonalities that wrap over each other for a gauzy effect likened to sound being wrapped around sound.
On their latest, The Dusted Sessions, the group’s minimalist tendencies are augmented by a full band, which adds depth to their compositions. Inspired by a trip to California’s Yuba River, side one opens with “Yuba Source Part I,” a ten-minute track which unfolds over an endless horizon like the opening credits of a lost Western. The song is peppered with plaintive guitar lines (played by Noah Phillips) that are placed crisply atop a galloping drone and tanpura (played by Michael Elrod).
“Six Hands to the Light” is transcendent beauty, all electronic gurgles that sonically evoke the natural refraction of light hitting the water. Bassist Ben Bracken carries the momentum forward throughout side one’s somnambulant journeys, channeling Playing with Fire-era Spacemen 3. Variations of the opening track play out in the closing songs of side one—“Yuba Source Part II” and “Yuba Reprise”—and even though it might be difficult to discern what new elements Date Palms incorporates, the pace of the record pleasantly lulls the listener farther down the river.
The second side of The Dusted Sessions also begins with a lengthy tone setter, although one not nearly as evocative or languid as side one’s starting track. “Night Riding the Skyline” steadily builds from a background of drones and electronic pulses into a somewhat straight-forward and steady “rocker,” or as much as Date Palms can be said to “rock” (think Friends of Dean Martinez at their most ethereal), all the while being pulled into outer directions from Jakobsons’ unorthodox violin. Volume is the key to the second side as its three tracks brood like a coming storm. Playing this side loudly reveals otherwise unheard nuances and textures, and completes Date Palms’ aural exploration of the natural landscape.