Barcelona duo PALLADIAN has been releasing a steady stream of singles and remixes over the past three years, along with an EP in 2021.  Ocra is their debut album, and while the thirty-seven-minute set does contain some space, the duo chose not to include any of the older material: a sign that their sound is maturing quickly.  We do recommend that those who enjoy Orca visit the back catalog, as it’s not too long and includes some real gems, especially the remixes of “Fur” and “Marbles.”

The duo defines their sound as “falling between downtempo and organic house,” a fair description.  Chicane may come to mind for older fans, Bonobo for the younger.  PALLADIAN’s music is both soothing and clubworthy, a difficult combination to pull off.  There’s a beat, and you can dance to it, but you can also sit to it, on a couch or in a car, and be similarly soothed.  The use of samples is also comforting, and the vocalists are seamlessly integrated.

An amusing twist occurs early on, as many will assume “Walden” refers to Walden Pond and the pleasantries of nature.  But “Walden,” like many of these tracks, is actually inspired by a building, reflecting the architectural background of the duo.  But the forward motion of “Ostro” is inspired by a Mediterranean wind, while “Zagara” refers to orange blossoms in spring.  Ocre is the Italian word for ochre, an earth tone with comforting connotations.  Perhaps “Walden” relates to nature after all.

The set exudes a summer vibe; one can already imagine it on beach playlists.  One thinks of salt, waves, and coconuts ~ even if a track such as “Sierra” seems to reference a desert.  Vibrant vocal loops conjure images of a tribal celebration.  “Lithica” continues to loop while seeming more airy, arms outstretched toward the sky.  Strings and samples are joined by handclaps in a late passage, shifting the tone from peace to joy.

The only complaint about the music is that it ends so soon.  One has only just gotten settled: beach towel down, sunscreen applied, volleyball net set up, when the album ends.  Fortunately the album sounds good on repeat.  And even though the duo could have included older tracks, they have also resisted the temptation to add filler, which makes Ocra a smooth listening experience from start to finish.  (Richard Allen)

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