Picture if you will, Chino Moreno of the DEFTONES fronting ISIS instead of Aaron Turner. Sounds like a bit wild of a prospect, but not really when you consider the alt swerves the DEFTONES have been taking on their most recent works, "Diamond Eyes" and "Koi No Yokan". It's no secret the DEFTONES are huge CURE fans and it's more than evident that the constituents of the disbanded ISIS favor them as well. Jeff Caxide shares the same lofting air ducts of classic alternative with which to sprinkle his bass lines, while Bryant Clifford Meyer's less crunchy guitar lines make him an apt pupil of Robert Smith.
It's no surprise, then, that Meyer and Caxide, along with drummer Aaron Harris remain in-arms beyond ISIS and find alliance with Chino Moreno to give birth to PALMS, a down-tempo alterversion of the entities their principals are best known for. While it's been reported Jeff Caxide had many softer ideas within the reaches of pop (to paraphrase him) he withheld from ISIS, here in the alternative-kissed PALMS, they blossom like made-to-order hothouse flowers.
"Palms" would've been all the rage on "120 Minutes" decades ago and yet the moment belongs to today. Ingeniously, PALMS is exactly what you think it's going to sound like and yet it isn't. Familiar modes of aquatic free-floating and eruptive sonic expressionism drive the six compositions while Chino Moreno imprints his most striking octaves upon them. "Palms" is supreme shoegazing with a metal heritage, different from the reverse approach each of these artists are well known for.
The opening three numbers "Future Warrior", "Patagonia" and "Mission Sunset" are the most touching and alone would've been enough to substantiate this project. Each one finds touches of ISIS' "Panopticon" and "Wavering Radiant" with more restraint and less concentration on heaped textures. Instead, the components are accented and exploited to their fullest impact. Caxide, Meyer and Harris bring the dreamiest and the most complex elements of ISIS into PALMS without committing self-plagiarism. By the time Chino Moreno whispers his way into each song, there's a natural intimacy that sends out shivers of pleasure. When he raises his tones to match the group's elevation past the wanderlust progressions, you can feel a sense of implied agitation with each tumbling movement. Very much the same effect as ISIS, but when each song climaxes, it's not Aaron Turner's calamitous woofs and barks greeting the ears, but emotional and stunning wails from Chino Moreno.
"Shortwave Radio" evolves into the heaviest output on "Palms" with just the barest nod to ISIS' "Celestial" in the final section while Moreno shrieks like a banshee after seducing the listener all the way through dazing rolls inspired by THE CURE. "Tropics" is appropriately sedate with calm tides of faraway escapism projected through Caxide and Meyer's slow, spiraling lines that eventually surge into a sunny spout of rhythmic distortion. Chino sounds like he's sold himself a private island and he's conveying his wonderment, while Meyer's dotting solo is wistful and welcoming. As the shortest track on the album, it's also the closest thing to being pop as Caxide alludes, albeit it's more of a graceful form of alt-pop.
The album's closer "Antarctic Handshake" is another full-on CURE salute with its hypnotic synths and swirling, alt-psych ostinato. Chino Moreno checks in and checks out in the opening minutes of the track before yielding to the explorative instrumental segments. The slow digital pulses in the first half of the composition are soon submerged by Aaron Harris' more organic beats. Meyer later orchestrates a grandiose wall of guitars and electronics that all but gulp Caxide's plodding assists. The final bars featuring Meyers and Caxide throwing reverb into the hissing plane above them serves as a shrewd and humbling finale to a very inspired collaboration.
Whether or not PALMS will ever assemble a future album or not, it will go down as one of the finest ISIS offshoots notwithstanding RED SPAROWES, WINDMILLS BY THE OCEAN, LOTUS EATERS, OLD MAN GLOOM and MGR. PALMS is the more effective extension of the possibilities hinted by the one-shot ISIS-AEREOGRAMME coalition on "In the Fishtank 14". Having superstar regimen in the form of Chino Moreno within the quasi-family of PALMS works for notability purposes, but the best part is that this is no gimmick. ISIS diehards are going to automatically flock to this album while it might take a bit of outreaching to some DEFTONES fans to bring them over to it. Still, PALMS is the partnership of like minds who get one another and their output is magical stuff.