Bay Area unit Date Palms spent the earlier part of their existence as a duo, uncoiling their mellow psychedelic ruminations in long patient strands of synthesizer textures and organic washes of violin, harp, and flute. For third album The Dusted Sessions, the original duo of Gregg Kowalsky and Marielle Jakobsons expanded to include bassist Ben Bracken, tanpura player Michael Elrod, and guitarist Noah Phillips, ornamenting an already rich sound with new layers of subtleties and restrained playing. While Date Palms were always good at not veering into territory that was too soupy or blissed-out, the balance of patient playing and skillfully arranged cosmic exploration reaches transcendent heights on this album's seven lengthy pieces.
The vast desert of the southwestern U.S. has been an inspiration for musicians in all sorts of traditions. Increasingly it creeps into metal and psych, with late period Earth being a particularly strong example of rock that incorporates Western-style melodies and languid strokes meant to evoke the expanse. There’s something exotic but familiar about it, a beguiling quality that Oakland, CA's Date Palms nail to a tee.
There’s certainly some talking points leading into Date Palms’ third record, The Dusted Sessions. The duo, Gregg Kowalsky and Marielle Jakobsons, added two new members in tanpura player Michael Elrod and guitarist Noah Phillips. And yes, you can hear the contributions of these new players in exciting ways here. But to talk about the players themselves, or even the instruments, references a physicality that seems foreign to Date Palms’ sound.
Inspired by a trip to the Yuba River and apparently the Eureka Dunes, Date Palms’ latest effort is a long and winding attempt to create a sonic monument to the staggering beauty of those landscapes. At the core of the band is Gregg Kowalsky’s electronics and Marielle Jakobsons’s violin and flutes, but recently Date Palms have expanded their line up to include Ben Bracken, Noah Phillips and Michael Elrod. The addition of these players and the instrumentation that they bring (electric guitar, bass and tanpura) has, as might be expected, added considerable scope to the band’s sound, but their presence is far from overbearing.
Walking through the desert is a lonely pursuit. There’s virtually nothing around you save for sky, too big to take in all at once, dunes, and a heightened sense of self-awareness. For Oakland’s Date Palms, the desert – near the Yuba River in California, particularly – is instead the source for creative impulse and sonic experimentation. With their fourth studio album, the bleak The Dusted Sessions, Date Palms transcend into a realm of sonic and spiritual intensity.