It would be silly to say that Drunken Sufis has mellowed with age. It’s only been a year since the energy drink of Cotton Candy Cluster Bombs, and two since the stuttered glitch of Fiber Optic Tap. So what is this new melodic undercurrent heard on Pala Pala? Has the punk act gone mainstream? Not at all ~ instead, the band has deepened its palette while extending its DIY ethic. Punk is not anti-everything, just anti-staid. And if the band now does some things in moderation, it’s only to prove that it can.
And so – wonder upon wonders – the set begins with something that sounds like a single. “Datura Love Diet” contains a catchy guitar theme, energetic drumming and a sense of accessibility. That is, until the music seems to skip. Are we done? No ~ after this, a second memorable line emerges. Not that “Seven Nation Army” is in any trouble, but the ensuing march beat could play happily in the same sandbox.
With 15 songs in 31 minutes, this certainly looks on paper like the same band who recorded Cotton Candy Cluster Bombs. But a greater variety is present here, perhaps a reflection of the fact that the prior album was also accompanied by a series of related videos and as such needed similar Pantone shades. Pala Pala sounds instead like someone dumping all of the crayons out of the box, breaking a bunch, and putting most of them back in random order while allowing some to slip under the couch. Beats run ragged, tempos change, surges of thick instrumentation bump into thin, knocking them over. There’s some jazz in here, some drone, some stutter and a whole lot of jam. And somehow, it never goes off the rails. Sometimes a piano appears for a few phrases (“Look, I’m a song!”) and then gets crushed. “Echo Lake” contains big beats, suitable for a big floor. “Baltra” tips a hat to Franz Ferdinand, then knocks the hat into a puddle, cries, and stomps it with bamboo sticks. “Spiro” is heavy on bells and cymbals, until a flute appears. It’s as if the band is at a tag sale, using every item as an instrument. In contrast, the final three tracks are gentle, which makes the preceding outbursts all the more powerful. Has Drunken Sufis mellowed? No, but on Pala Pala they’ve found the yin to balance their yang. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 20 January