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:: Palmstruck ::
07 May 2011 / Islington Mill / Salford
By Cath Aubergine

It's been a while...

Sometimes with local bands you start to take them for granted, and certainly in 2006 and 2007 Palmstruck were one of those bands we'd see periodically at unsigned nights - MM put them on at Oldham Castle at least once - or support slots for bands like The Longcut and 65daysofstatic. And then... nothing. Another of those bands of great promise left unfulfilled - the decade's worth of database hidden behind this page is full of them.

Early 2011, painted or sprayed on a hoarding down by the university - one word: PALMSTRUCK. Are they back, then? Then comes the Facebook page invitation. "Originally formed in 2003 with the recent inclusion of Jimi on bass, palmstruck have traversed the frighteningly unpredictable trappings of success largely by avoiding it. After a long sabbatical, we're about to climb back on the horse. Only to discover the horse is in fact a lifesize cardboard cut-out of Brenda Blethyn. Fun times ahead." They always were a bit... obtuse? Maybe. Individual, certainly. In 2007 the prog that loomed heavy in their influence might have started to lose its stigma; in 2011 it's a key factor in a good few of Manchester's most exciting new bands. And rather than climb back on that horse via a tick-sheet on the door of some unsigned night, they're doing it their way. Their first show back involved hiring Gulliver's; this is their second. Bands take note - if you don't want to sell tickets for someone else's pocket while you wait for the quality promoters to call, why not simply invent your own club night?

Not everyone, admittedly, has Palmstruck's imagination. We arrive in Islington Mill - a venue some of the band had never actually visited prior to tonight - to find a friendly atmosphere with people sitting around on sofas while this evening's compere, poet Thick Richard, spills some sharp, fast and funny words about rent boys and other unseemly stuff. A particular highlight is his "cover" of George Formby's "(If women like them like men like those) Why Don't Women Like Me?" in which Formby's less-than-flattering observations of competitors are replaced by Richard's more contemporary and scathingly hilarious digs. Wayne Rooney is mentioned. Next up, video artist OddBox showcases some animations and short films - twice over, as it happens, because "the tech bloke's gone for some tea" before Thick Richard returns and - via a last rapidfire piece about "a killing rampage in CBeebies" - introduces the band. As does David Cameron.

In sample form, you understand; a repeating loop of "I call it... the Big Society....." twists and segues into a pulsating techno introduction from a keyboard apparently manned by a minotaur in a Good Morning Vietnam T-shirt; drums and guitars gradually phase into the mix and we are off to planet Palmstruck.

Never a band to be tied down to any specific genre, their hiatus seems to have served only to expand their vision as twisty, mathy progressive pop studded with samples gives way to a woozy trip through Can-flavoured psychedelics underpinned by a funky groove from the wiry and heavily tattooed bassist. Vocals are sparse and understated, but head off in unexpected directions, sometimes used more like an instrument blending in with long bending guitar notes; you're never quite sure what's coming next, but it's a delight finding out. They take a lovely echoey piece of shoegaze and transpose it into some bewildering time signature, then add some off-kilter guitar and bass melodies that somehow conspire to make it sound like it's being played backwards. Then the last track starts out a bit Radiohead before dissolving into a long interwoven coda that's the musical equivalent of the fractals projected behind them.

It's a hell of a lot to take in, but it's all very good indeed and you can see why the band wanted to make their return on their own terms. Manchester has changed a lot in the past three years - these days it might just be ready for them.

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