PALINDROME - Strange Patterns

Palindrome - Strange Patterns

8 songs
35:17 minutes
***** *****
Panta R&E


If there is one thing you can blame Palindrome, itís that they really take a long time between releases. The excellent debut Profit vs. WoManKind came out in 2009, and then we had to wait for three years to get an EP. The next interval was even one year longer, even though we get with Strange Patterns a longplayer this time. Although thirty-five minutes isnít that long after all. But maybe the Austrian sextet is just a group of perfectionists who donít want to rush things, and frankly one of their songs usually contains more ideas than you will find on many other artistsí entire albums.

And yet Strange Patterns wasnít an instant pleaser like their two previous records. The jazz components of the past have been reduced, and while they are still a part of the music, they are better integrated into the overall sound. Palindrome are sometimes called a progressive rock band, at other times they are located into math rock territory, but in the end they are one of the few bands that truly transcend stylistic barriers. The Mars Volta, Mr Bungle and Motorpsycho are used as reference points, although the only thing they have in common with these artists is their way of not letting themselves limit to simplistic genre definitions.

The band is fronted by out-of-this-world vocalist Rosa Nentwich-Bouchal whose voice can switch from melancholic jazz deliveries to manic rock siren. The incredible dynamic range of her performance is so amazing because sheís no mere technician, but also has a lot of soul to offer. The five musicians all play different instruments: guitar, bass, keyboards, saxophone and drums. All of this makes for a really dense sound this time, and yes it takes some time to unravel their intricate compositions. If at first the short length of the album may disappoint, and also the fact that sometimes we expect ten or twenty minute long epics from progressive rock acts, Palindrome have distilled their songs into four to five minute exercises in concise songwriting. Picking highlights is easy: the entire album! Although some tracks will stick even more, like the ultra-dynamic Timelessness with its fierce vocal performance, or the wild and wonderful Wonít Wake Up. The soulful vocal intro of Random Accumulator is also quite wonderful. The opener Carve The Pattern and the title track Strange Patterns share some characteristics, making them something like a twin entity.

I could philosophise even more about Palindromeís new album, but guess it makes more sense if you check it out yourself. Strange Patterns is truly progressive music, and not just merely repeating the patterns of previous bands. The math rock label makes sense for the intricate songwriting, but believe me when I say that Palindrome have more punch than most of the math contemporaries. With a healthy bonus of jazz and soul, the Austrian sextet delivers a short yet unforgettable album of pure genius. Last time I reviewed them, I held out the prospect of a maximum grade, and despite the short nature of the album, I decided that this album is definitely worth it. Maybe itís just the perfect length because more might have made the digestion process more difficult. Palindrome is, next to the criminally underrated Knifeworld, one of the best bands around right now.

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