The name of the band and the album gives the game away, as perhaps it should, and the cover image of two musicians walking away towards a line of telegraph poles near-hidden in a dustcloud certainly helps too. The music by Date Palms is immediately suggestive of the desert fringes, of the places where sandy dryness meets welcome verdant relief, of Joshua Tree or the scrublands of Southern California, the Sahel of north Africa and the encroaching dryness of the Mediterranean basin: the interstices where there is enough water to support life but not enough for greenery to rule.As with the dustbowl introspection of fellow-travellers Om, Date Palms like their tones low and slow. Mournful bass and windswept cello weave their quiet wonder across “Yuba Source” parts one and two (and a reprise), each unfolding calmly into territory, which while never unexplored by others, is mapped out here with skilful strokes. Descending guitar lines speak softly of human incredulity at the sublimity of nature while the strings tell of sadder things hidden among the deceptively tough vegetation of the landscape which the melodies and timbres delineate. Meanwhile, the wistful interacting waveforms of the drones which populate “Six Hands to the Light” provide sparser interludes between the tonally-richer movements.
“Night Riding the Skyline” has a suitably edgier feel, as the inhabitants come out to hunt, watchful cello stepping lightly among the gathering tones and cautiously emergent pulsations; and when a prowling fuzz bass walks on to the accompany a dubbily echoing mechanistic beat, it seems like time to tread carefully among the twilit guitars and plangent electric piano. Then, softly, the cello glides back in, lit brighter now as electronic whinnies signify that the dawn may be coming. “Dusted Down” initially treads a more electronic path, arpeggiating curlicues heralding the arrival of a widescreen soundscape delivered in the key of Earth, the sun well and truly risen and holding high in the sky, supported on any arch of resolute bass and effulgent strings.
It comes as no surprise then that the last track is called “Exodus Due West,” again cresting over analogue echoes to gaze in wonder at the setting sun, subtle sitar twangs nestling resonantly among the swoops as the bass holds itself to the tempo of the dusk.