Inspired by the French screamo scene, alt noise rock, as well as foreign bands of various different genres and their local heroes Nizhny Novgorod group For You Earth (now retired), Vladimir, Russia’s act US PÀLM recently wrapped up 8 years of their existence with a remarkable and vital debut full length called “Лестница”. Influenced by the sound of bands like Unwound, Title Fight, Current 93, Sonic Youth, Seaweed, and a lot more, the offering stands as the group’s most eclectic album to date. It’s powerful in both delivery and in effect, and feels like an exhilarating change of pace for the rockish side of post hardcore genre. We’ve teamed up with our guest blogger Eddie Cantú to dig a bit deeper into its structure and with the band itself, to share their first-hand track by track commentary for each and every of the exploratory songs.
Лестница by US PÀLM was released on May 24th, 2018 and can be grabbed via the band’s official Bandcamp profile.
Guest review by IDIOTEQ Texas based contributor Eddie Cantú:
US PÀLM are one of these Russian bands that aren’t getting the merit for their outstanding work. Formed in 2010 in the suburbs of Vladimir, Russia. US PÀLM formed out of a collective interest for the music that was coming out of the French screamo scene and the American alt noise rock scene, as well as film (if you haven’t caught the play on words fro, the film which the band’s name originates) and, of course, a passion to write melodic and distorted music.
Having a few released works under their belt already: a mini album in 2015, an EP, and a couple of one-track participations for splits before this one hour long full length it’s clear that US PÀLM are passionate about writing and releasing their music and continuously developing their sound in the process. Informing to us: “… then we left the main vocalist, and his place was taken by the guitarist. (This) changed the concept of the group. (We) began to play a little in another genre if I may say so. Close to alternative noise.”
The debut full-length album titled “Nectnua/Lestnica/Stairs” is a mammoth offering of 14 total songs clocking in at over an hour. But fear not, every song is well composed and is sure to keep fans of this nostalgic genre at the edge of their seats.
Stairs opens with, reasonably, the heaviest song on this album, “Careless”, which is an amazing opener to this album. Beginning with an ambiguous Alan Watts audio clip and introducing you to the band through a short segment of bright chords and a simple drum fill laying the foundations for the vocalist (who is not named) to perform his impressive combination of screams and clean vocals. It’s obvious within the first minute of this album that this band have put in the time and effort to write a good song. It’s not just the vocalist who stands out throughout this release either because as the album proceeds you can really hear the musicianship from each member of the band. But what really impresses me is how well they work together as a unit: At any point in Stairs somebody is guaranteed to be playing something interesting; whether it be the drummer’s thoughtful accents that keeps each song grooving smoothly, or the melodic dissonance from the guitars, which are always complimenting each other well. There is already a sufficient array of ear candy at play instrumentally. And this is without even considering the life that is brought in by the vocalist (/guitarist) who utilizes his signature vocal amalgamation for a perfect execution of phrasing.
The shining moment in this record for me is just before the halfway mark: their first preview of a lengthy song titled “feel the sunburn” clocking in at over 6 minutes. This is where the band deeply impressed me. It’s their ability to write lengthy songs and still keep the dynamic songwriting flowing. Musicianship is always appreciated in the genre(s) of post-hardcore and screamo, we’ve all heard the harmonized guitar trills and melodic wailings performed by the now giants of these genres. It’s nothing new now and any long time listener probably expects these short moments of musical proficiency. But what sets a band like US PÀLM apart is how they can take a listener into these adventurous progressive bridges and set a music boundary that either consciously wasn’t, or couldn’t be reached by their predecessors and initial influences. “Feel the sunburn” is the perfect example of what I mean: a great, and catchy alternative jam that is fittingly transformed into a progressive theme midway. Something has to be said about the guitarist’s style; because although he technically isn’t offering anything new with his note selection, it’s his approach to songwriting that sets this band apart to my ears. With songs ranging across the 6, 8, and 9 minute marks during the second half of this album, it’s easy to tell that this group is not interested in limiting their music to any one specific formula unless it’s what the song demands. This is definitely a band to keep your eyes on in the years to come and I for one have become a fan upon first listen.
Now, if there’s any negative aspects to this album or disappointments with the release, to my ears, it’s only the quality of the recording/production. Many times the vocals are buried under the mix. Track # 7 is a rare and singular moment in this album: an acoustic and vocal ballad with no drums or bass.
The band can greatly overcome the low recording quality everywhere else but during this song (and the soft moments scattered across the album too) it’s obvious that this moment has been lost in translation from what it was meant to be. It makes me wonder just how great these songs can be if they were re-recorded in a proper studio. It’s already a fantastic album compositionally so much so that this selfish thought, to put the band in a studio that can rival one where their decorated predecessors, recorded their magnum opus albums, to reimagine these songs is enough to inspire shivers in my imagination.
Don’t miss out on this album and don’t sleep on this band. I can only hope that they will get recognized as the emerging talent they are proving themselves to be.
The band’s own Nikita Nikitin joined us for the full track by track breakdown:
Somewhat classic “alternative” song and album opener: fast and punching intro, catchy choruses, guitar solo, cathartic culmination. Lyrics are about witnessing a stranger’s tragedy and being unable to do or feel anything about that.
The weirdest track on this album, which starts with agressive screams about walking under the pines and swimming in the lake and ends with chaotic overlaying of five voices. It’s the only one featuring additional musician: our friend Arseniy from Third Mind Movement reads some lines in the end. Song’s name is an inside joke: it reminds us of Jesu and The Jesus Lizard songs a bit.
Most straightforward rock song here with some details which (we hope) differ it from other verse-chorus-verse ones out there a little: sunny instrumental coda, an attempt to make Beatles-like choir in the quiet part and maybe the lyrics, as they are about angels and a dead body. It’s funny that this song might end up on australian web radio.
В её глазах (In her eyes)
As close to hardcore as we get. It’s fast, agressive and strained. Also the first song in russian here with lyrics about not being happy with being alive and searching for ways to escape this material world without dying.
The sister track to the previous one, also being loud, sharp, agressive and in russian. It’s about the person who strongly and mindlessly wished to end his life, but changed his mind when this wish was almost granted. The heavy culmination and it’s build up remind of Neurosis a little.
Feel the sunburn
People say they like it more than our other songs. A relatively long and very tense one. We’ve put many different elements together here, from quiet and fragile verses to blastbeats and painful screams, and somehow it clicked. Lyrically it’s the darkest one, being cynical, apathetic and with no sense of hope.
Закрытый океан ч.2 (Encrypted ocean pt.2)
It’s the only song on the album written by me and not by Denis. It differs from the others in full-band version (which may find it’s place on our second album) and we decided to increase this difference by recording it with just guitar and voice in a single take. It’s quiet and lo-fi and marks the end of album’s first half.
Непосторонним в. (Untrespassers V.)
An instrumental track. Delicate and clear in the beginning, loud and noisy in the end. Earlier it had some words too, maybe the only bright and happy lyrics here without any dark or tragic twist, but worked better without voice. It’s name references “Winnie-the-Pooh” (and also great american band Trespassers William) and is dedicated to one of the most dear persons in my life.
This one, unlike others, is based on a simple repeating bass line with no resolutions or theme changes and just gets more intense towards the end. It’s a short, vulnerable and atmospheric song with lyrics about holding on to your loved one in the whirlpool of life’s meaninglessness and severity.
From the trains
This song was the first one that we made for this album and in current line-up. In the beginning (and on our 2017 “Cow” demo) it had more dirt, noise and agression, but on the album it turned out cleaner and, again, sad. I don’t know if it worked well for the song, but at least now we have two different versions. Lyrics are about relationships (not about certain one, i guess) and some unhealthy moments in them. About hiding from the rest of the world in spending your days with one special person.
It’s a fast, raw and rather relentless song. In the end it gets soft and melodic, but before that you’ll have three minutes of irritated yelling, guitar riffs, drum rolls and noise. It’s temper forced me to write the only lyrics here that speak of something social rather than something personal or inexplicable. They are about our common and ever-growing addiction to the Internet, to computers, smartphones, tvs, game consoles and other gadgets. To the Screen in general. About how we spend on them so much of our lifetimes, constantly justifying it to others and ourselves in all the possible ways. Rather sad and ordinary song theme for 2018.
Of leaves in may
A melancholic and subtle one. It’s mood and sound reminds me of The Cure and Slowdive, maybe their loud and diseased child. Lyrically, it’s the most introspected one, about sitting alone in your room, looking through the window at the cold but colourful day in the middle of May and experiencing your crisis of faith.
The longest and, I dare to say, the most epic song on the album which consists of two parts: the first is a bright, dynamic and more usual song which we constantly play live and the second is instrumental for the most time and evolves in the ways of “post-rock” or something like that. It takes a journey from quiet guitar ambient, through the peaks and sinks, and to the wall-of-sound-culmination. To say the least, it’s nothing new, but somehow it worked very well, and we all love this song and how it was done on the album.
Лестница (The ladder)
We thought that “m.n.” was the perfect album closer but also very typical one. So, after all those crescendos and culminations we decided to put the straightforward punk song in the end. When we finished composing and arranging it on rehearsals i knew it must be the title track and the closing one. It also has two parts divided by a quiet interlude: the first is a good and strong punk song and the second is a twisted drum solo and a culmination. It came naturally to revert to russian language in the end and worked better.
Lyrics for the first part were almost entirely received by “automatic writing” and turned up to be a catastrophe warning (sometimes i think that this is what our entire album is all about), and the second part is a gratitude and dedication to an old school friend.