Wild Mercury Sound

Date Palms: "Of Psalms"

John Mulvey

As I mentioned on Friday, I’m indebted to David for turning me onto this album by Date Palms. Quickly, it reminds me of a bunch of my favourite music - Alice Coltrane, Terry Riley, Pandit Pran Nath, Cluster, Sun Araw, Brightblack Morning Light, PG Six – while combining the influences into something relatively original.

Essentially, on “Of Psalms”, Oakland's Gregg Kowalsky and Marielle Jakobsons strip a lot of their music back to the drones and devotional ambience of Eastern-facing cosmic jazz records; Alice Coltrane is an obvious reference point, though the record that seems to me the closest fit, especially with the pivotal “Psalm 3”, is “The Elements”, on which she backed up Joe Henderson.

“Psalm 3”’s raga tone is what obviously recalls Pandit Pran Nath, too, and there’s some time-lag layering that brings to mind an obsessive Pran Nath scholar, Terry Riley (with particular emphasis on “Persian Surgery Dervishes” and “Descending Moonshine Dervishes”, I’d say).

But there’s also a slothfully funky bass cutting through the piece, joined after about ten minutes by a low Fender Rhodes, which is where the Brightblack allusion comes from: there’s also some of that bass groove on the opening “Psalm 7”, which brings to mind the slow, deep grooves of Sun Araw and maybe just about their British analogue, Forest Swords. Also here, there’s the first sighting of what I think is an autoharp (hence the PG Six reference). “Psalm 4”, meanwhile, is more in a kosmische electronic vein, akin to the bucolic percolations of Cluster circa “Sowiesoso”.

I’m conscious that this string of specific references doesn’t really do Date Palms justice, and that it’s perhaps not the best way of articulating a record’s precise sound. But “Of Psalms” joins the dots so effectively between so much music that I love, it’s hard not to flag up the serendipitous echoes that pulse through it. As a profound and transporting meditation, it works great in its own right; just the first, I suspect, of a bunch of good records that I’ll belatedly deiscover after having missed them last year.


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