With Man Forever, the first thing you’ll probably notice is three guys huddled around a single drum — one of them Kid Millions of Oneida and instigator of said project — whose concerted drum rolls initially resemble the comforting pitter-patter of rain on a roof. That reassuring sound soon is internalized, swept through our bodies on a huge wash of bass, keys, and EBow’d guitar hum and drone, with the power of it lifting each witness a half-inch off the ground. A vast ocean of overtones magicked out of the mysterious churning phases of the drumming, an open sea of cascading tonal hints and gradual drifts, a few, maybe three, suitably disorientating shifts in the drone-tones (we grow attached without noticing, and the change is wrenching), the three drummers’ sticks rebounding higher and higher off the drum until, with an impressively synchronized snap-finish, it’s over.
Dates Palms up next, the recent additions of bass and guitar lending slow heft to their wilted desert sway, doom-y riffs subtly steering the action in the general absence of drums. Date Palms play music that takes you places, soundscapes for desert landscapes, soundtracks for non-existent Westerns, a pleasant mélange of unapologetically evocative musical traditions. They are unhurried and expansive as I can only imagine the desert sky is; they play music that seems so closely linked to places they’ve been and I haven’t, and they do it well — it’s only too easy to think I might have been there myself. Yet they transport, and all my mental theatre has to bring up in response is received ideas, stock photography, and cinematic mythology — not that that’s Date Palms’ fault. Maybe it isn’t all quite so arid as to be entirely lonely dust and desert imagery; a particular highlight of the set for example, “Night Riding the Skyline,” brings out more watery depths with its dubby echoes and drum machine, and in Marielle Jakobsons’ violin there’s also a touch of human longing, smearing mournful melodies with a homestead-y familiarity over the proceedings — a testament to the life (no matter how tenuously it clings on) in the empty spaces.
One evening, two different trips — Man Forever’s perhaps more bodily, Date Palms’ more imagistic — and how easy it is to be snapped out of that delicate aim of trying to make my way from Berlin across the Atlantic to the desert-y open spaces by means of music alone.