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. It’s one that expands on the prospect of sound within an endless space, and encapsulates a world honed by a thick influence of Indian classical music and sparse minimalist compositions.
The Dusted Sessions is such a rich, apocryphal work that you’d think it was created by many minds. Date Palms is amazingly a duo, Gregg Kowalsky and Marielle Jakobsons. The two deftly balance an array of instruments — including flute, tanpura, violin, and ample electronics — to conjure a world of dunes and dust out of the air and into an immersive set of hypnotic sounds.
“Yuba Source Part One,” birthed from a venture to the desert of the same name, invokes both wonder and that eerie sense of calm that washes over after a disaster has struck. Mogwai fans will enjoy the doom-soaked “Dusted Down”, roaring with jagged guitars. The post-apocalyptic “Night Riding the Skyline” rumbles with a tremolo hum, the basslines thick and looping through Jakobsons’ violin crescendos.
The album’s closer “Exodus Due West” is the most ambient track on the record, and undoubtedly the eeriest. With oscillating analog synthesizer bloops over gentle bass strums and a flute, it wraps up an album that feels both distant and near. The Dusted Sessions leaves you unsure of what you’ve just heard, like seeing a natural wonder for the very first time and feeling like a speck in the vastness of it all.
Essential tracks: “Night Riding the Skyline”, “Yuba Source Part One”, and “Dusted Down”