Review: Accoutrements – Palm (self-released, Sep 8)

Depending on who you ask, Palm might be the closest one can possibly get to “ambient done right”; among other things, it’s quite upfront about the fact that “[n]o synthesizers were used in any of the productions,” something that’s revealed before the play button is even pressed. I’m here to write about an album, though, not petulantly dunk on the lowest-hanging fruits of the electronic music world, so no more A-word, I promise. But regardless of what specific genre you ascribe to it, this homemade debut tape from Portland project Accoutrements deals heavy in ambience, sometimes as hazy and diaphanous as a cloudy, breezy day and other times veering toward heavier territory with industrial crumble or sluggish noise. The vow of a synth-free affair is faithfully kept, but that doesn’t mean notes and harmonies and the like are just discarded; instead, they emerge from the cracks and creases between the atonal slabs of mechanical shuffling and aquatic analog-delay ripples, bubbling up and out like sweet steaming sap from a tapped trunk. The sublime mixture is perhaps at its best in the third part, when creaking, clattering rustles that may or may not have originated in the groaning sways of the titular trees loosely frame the earnest swell of an alternating ghost-note loop. The concluding section and its delicate timbral juxtapositions give even that a run for its money, though, and I’m helplessly obsessed with the almost alarm-like tonal drones that thread through its murky mass. True to the continuity that ties the four separate tracks together, each side of the physical C90 edition plays the album in full (and by the way, if anyone reading this has ever made a one-sided tape that doesn’t repeat the program on both sides, you SUCK). Only four copies left—don’t miss out!