Wait for it, wait for it, here it comes. You jut out your lower jaw and pull down the corners of your mouth, nod three or four times panning from left to right, closing your eyes sagaciously, and murmur low and quiet: “That’s badass.” If you don’t find yourself indulging in a similar physical reaction after listening to Olympia band Dark Palms’ newest EP Smoke, you just don’t get it (and by “it” I mean everything). Laurence Goldenstar’s voice matches the roughness of the sound but has just enough smoothness to counterpoint. I suppose he sounds a bit like Craig Finn from The Hold Steady if he were even more Irish, which (if you didn’t know), is a very good thing.
Tone-wise, the highlight of the EP is “Salton Sea.” Kendrick Ward’s distorted bass provides the impetus of a deep, dark wave while Timothy Grisham’s guitar soars over it. The song is short, I assume to give the band a rest from its incessant pounding drive. After “Salton Sea’s” punctuated last note, “Margarita and the Master” fades in with a Goldenstar repeating hypnotically, the gilded offer of Mephistopheles: “I will give you what you will, if you take this deal.” Grisham’s guitar work meanders beautifully over the unchanging, trancelike pulse of Drew Funk and Ward’s tandem drum and bass.
True to the title, most of the album is shrouded beautifully in a thick haze of distortion and reverb, no instrument or voice quite escaping it completely, even during solos. The album was actually recorded on 4-track at High Command which may account for its very organic feel. Dark Palms is exactly what you want from stoner rock. Heavy, dark, contemplative, and (if you’re listening to it correctly) loud. Fans of Fuzz and Protomartyr take note.