Grass Garden, the latest release from Pallmer, takes their classical/pop hybrid sound to new heights.
“There are a lot of things I really enjoy about Pallmer. For instance, their mere existence allows me to use words like neoclassical and cadence, or at least they make me feel like I should use those words when describing their music. After all, isn’t that how we’re supposed to talk about classical music or music inspired by the classical period or whatever the hell it is Pallmer are doing? We can’t just talk about their music using the same words we would to describe, say, a rock band, can we? Isn’t that some kind of disservice? Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe their instruments intimidate me because from birth, I was taught through TV and film that in order to play classical music you must be incredibly skilled to such a high standard that us ordinary, everyday musicians simply couldn’t understand. You’re basically some kind of super-human if you play in a band that isn’t just guitar, bass and drums.
“All this just because Pallmer feature a cello and a viola? That’s some intimidating stuff right? So sophisticated. This would all be so much easier if there were bass and drums involved.”
That was a bit of the inner monologue I had running through my head over the past few days as I listened to Grass Garden on repeat while working, while driving around town running errands, while biking and while sitting at my dining room table as the last hours of the day slipped past. I’ve listened to these three songs a lot and I’ve thought about how to write them just as much.
Grass Garden, the second EP from Pallmer in under a year, is truly something worth talking about. It really opens up a huge range of possibilities for where cellist Emily Kennedy and violist Mark Kleyn could go with this project. It takes the ideas first presented on Blocking Time (2018) – this pairing of simple classical music with Kennedy’s rich, unassuming voice delivering stunning lines of melancholic pop poetry – and adds to that, new layers and textures.
Since the release of their debut, Kennedy and Kleyn have directed a lot of energy into developing Pallmer’s sound. They took their project to the Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity in Banff, Alberta where they took part in a residency to explore new ideas that furthered their blend of classical and contemporary pop music. That’s some serious dedication.
On Grass Garden, Kennedy’s looped base lines move between momentum and swagger while Kleyn’s atmospheric tones help create a broader, more visceral world for these songs to exist in. At times frantic and cascading, the push/pull of emotion compounded by the pure versatility of these two instruments help to highlight the desperate longing and reflection of Kennedy’s lyrics. On both the opening and closing tracks, the cello and viola appear to be in conversation (or confrontation) with one another, building emotion as each track progresses to a climactic end.
The more I think about it, the more I think the intimidation I feel when writing about Pallmer has nothing to do with the group’s instrumental makeup and more to do with the fact that what they’re doing is so beautiful, so powerful and so damn good that whatever words I decide to throw down on the page will undoubtedly fall short in describing exactly what I love most about Pallmer and this EP.
I can’t wait to see where they go next.