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The Double - Palm Fronds

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Artist: The Double

Album: Palm Fronds

Label: Catsup Plate

Review date: Apr. 13, 2004

There's a subtle but certain difference between records defined by a distinct sonic element and those dependent upon one. And, though often mesmerizing, The Double's debut, Palm Fronds, seems to be a case of the latter.

None of the album's ten tracks is without the blurry, warm wash of heavy (and sometimes heavy-handed) delay pedals, which isn't particularly surprising given the delay's ubiquitous standing in psychedelic music. And, to be fair, The Double's messy, spacey clatter creates an appealing atmosphere for the most part, although it's earned them a casual categorization as Animal Collectivists (an association furthered by Palm Fronds' A.C.-affiliated Catsup Plate Records) that's not entirely accurate.

The truth is that beneath this Brooklyn-based gang of four's endless vibrations lies some very plain music. This shouldn't necessarily be interpreted as an indictment; it's just not nearly as bewildering as their four-footed friends' flutteringly experimental fluctuations. For all their rumbling reverberation, The Double's songs are distinctly songs, and are drawn from a relatively ordinary reservoir of influences. "Standing on a Levee" moseys across "Horse with No Name" country (utilizing an almost identical melody), while "Mohawk" meanders like a second-rate Silver Jews jam (singer David Greenhill even apes David Berman's peculiar intonation). Strangely, the more minimal and ambient pieces, such as the cluttered "Ghost Song" or the pulsing "Black Diamond," don't sound all that different, largely because every audible instrument echoes interminably. This use of technology accents the music's hypnotic qualities, but it's at the expense of mood and purpose, both of which are dangerous elements to sacrifice. The Double, however, risk it, choosing to drench the proceedings-be they western walkabouts or post-jazz improvisations-in so much delay that the sonic textures become inexorably tangled, with lunar vocals, dub drums, and squiggly synthesizers all spiraling up and away, but not to anywhere very interesting.

These details notwithstanding, Palm Fronds provides a pleasing sojourn, swaying with muted warmth through ten softly wandering tracks. Though their pedal-pushing ingredients may be trapped in limbo, The Double's lost oscillations are not without a certain lulling grace.

By Britt Brown

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