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PAL - Music For Hikers (Kiosk Recs, 2021)

For the debut outing on Kiosk Radio's label, the group PAL formulate a love letter to the Parc Royal, via a series of mesmerising musical sketches that channel differing energies and experiences, along with the plethora of musical atmospheres that the radio station has come to represent.

Music can transform into many differing forms, be it a spiritual one, a physical one or perhaps somewhere in the middle, and this transformative ability depends very much on the concept being presented to us. Electronic music in particular has a real knack of achieving this, with the tones and textures on display weaving together to craft an experience that provides an snapshot or series of snapshots into a world worth believing in. This experience becomes tenfold when the diversity of styles and genres is considered as paramount to the journey, as it provides not just one kind of moment to invest in but several over the course of a record, and this helps to create a convincing and believable world. When produced with an overarching concept, this formation of musical styles helps to create an audial experience that has both substance and style, an ever evolving palette of grooves and melodies that don't give it all away at once, merely parcelling it out and providing us with the goods when we need it the most. It creates a narrative that helps us to formulate a picture in our eyes of places we might not have visited before, but can now vividly capture something in our heads that feels very much of a certain place and time, perhaps with some emotion thrown in for good measure. Imaginations can run wild, thoughts remain perplexed and fixated, dreams swing from left to right and back again, eager to understand and take in all that we can when moving forward into a new state of being. Our eyes light up as if to say 'we have arrived', situating ourselves within a context that comes alive through keys, vocals, drums and atmospheres, a sphere of elements that binds us to a certain place in time, never letting go until the music has finished playing. Transformation is a beautiful thing indeed, and when it encapsulates the widest part of a performance, it can be very persuasive indeed, and something for us all to believe in, time and time again.

These are very much the feels that resonate from the works of PAL, who's sombre and reflective take on a vast array of styles and genres has led to a mixture of warm, vibrant tracks that transport the listener away to a very intriguing place indeed. The group consists of members Wojciech Grynko, Pieter Polspoel & Arnaud Nourisson, who all work together on the party series Plein Sud and the Undo Seat Beats record label, and for the past year or so have been releasing music as PAL, and its fair to say that their broad reaching influences and activities have helped to shape a powerful narrative that surrounds them, and keeps propelling them forward into new realms of expressionism. Their music paints scenes that evoke the spirits of ambient, downtempo and and all manner of rhythmically soft electronic music, along with enchanting vocal snippets that add flavour up top, and help to frame the music within a conversational setting. We become drawn into the world, a world that entices with its delightfully considered tones and its warm intoxicating underbelly, where atmospheres collide expertly with compositional direction. Every track they release helps to make up a coherent whole, connecting the dots within a self-contained experience that lives and breaths by itself, an organism that spreads its influence beyond and into the room or space we find ourselves within, with the walls always changing colour and the environment outside constantly shifting perspective and scale. There's something very special to be found underneath the layers that persist underneath within their music, a sense of grace and purpose that meanders along at its own pace, inviting us to walk alongside and perhaps see the world through its eyes, and this remains a very special experience to be involved within indeed. All of these vibes are very much present on their debut mixtape as PAL, 'Afzondering', which landed on their Undo Seat Belt record label. The record is set up in mixtape format, with short but very sweet snapshots provided into differing windows that swirl around the the peripheries, as our mind is guided to individual insights as time passes by. Its a graceful journey, one that seeps into the consciousness with its almost effortless glides, helping to merge the environments we see outside with the visions we see in our heads. Hypnotic, characterful and endlessly listenable, there's plenty to unpack within their music, and we for one find ourselves constantly drawn back to its formidable inner power. The label is one certainly to keep an eye on, with Cepren Synth's 'The Sorry Best Of' record well worth checking out, along with their outputs on the Plein Sud party series, if you fancy taking a dive into one of their online shows or, if you're lucky enough, going to one of their parties in Brussels. In all, PAL are part of an intriguing universe, one where sonics and rhythms play a big role in wrapping us up and feeling very special indeed. From the emotion fuelled undercurrents through to the softly spoken narratives that unravel up top, there's plenty of enriching feels to delve deep within and find that refined space between the imagined and the very much alive. We feel blessed to receive these kinds of audial gifts that flourish into life, knocking on the doors within our minds that help us move beyond and into new realms of being. Its a comfortable experience, and one that soothes as much as it tantalises, drawing us into realms that could be either here, there or everywhere. Be sure to check it all out, its all very very good.

And now we arrive at the groups latest offering, 'Music for Hikers', which lands on the freshly formed imprint Kiosk Recs, an offshoot label of the Brussels based radio station Kisok Radio. The concept for this album revolves around the Parc Royal, a green space within the city where the radio station is located, and the music found within the album remains a reflection of the band's favourite spots within the park, with the tracks recorded during the winter of 2020. As you move through the record you do get this sense of scaled perspective, as if we are being moved around the park with an audial guidebook that starts playing the right song when we find ourselves in the right spot, and this helps the listener to get a sense of the outlay and character of the place. This notion makes a lot of sense considering that the tracks were originally commissioned by local art centre Beursschouwburg as part of the 'On the Go' sound walk about series, and after hearing the tunes Kiosk knew they had their first release on their hands. The usual PAL style operates throughout, with gorgeous keys and meandering narratives beautifully unravelling themselves across 9 cuts that all speak to the greater good as much as by themselves. The style is of course very fluid, with certain numbers leaning more in one direction whilst the next might take things in the other, but all in all that helps to create the most balanced of experiences, and on that note, lets dive into this beautiful record, and reach out and feel the leaves falling all around us....

'Drempels' comes next, and this one opens up with the deep drums to get things going. The pulse sets the stage, and as time passes by the bass notes come into view to provide some kind of melodic outlay, and after a couple of bars the vocals arrive into the mix to provide further intrigue. The voice rides just above the frequencies, chiming along to the groove as they add weight to the picture being painted, one that is being drawn out with outlines rather than being filled. The filling occurs soon after as an initial key line floats our way before unravelling into this cascading waterfall of colour, with gorgeous guitar lines merging with all manner of additional chords that make the track erupt into life. Things have certainly been set in motion here. Up next comes 'Watering Heights', and this one takes the feels down a little bit in terms of intensity. The water like samples reflect perfectly the simmering and deeply hypnotic guitar sweeps and keys, and as the two features get to know one another the vocals come straight into view, adding weight and narrative to the view we are experiencing. The aquatic notions move away to leave us with just the melodies, and its a sound that makes our eyes close as we fall into a bed of shedding vegetation, the pale evening sky inviting us to come further into the park. Up next comes 'Theatre's Gold', and this one starts with the light drumming patterns to get things going. The percussion is quickly joined by an array of rhythmic melodic elements, which feature hazy guitar lines alongside expertly placed bass tones and chordal lines, with the guitar acting mostly as a solo element which weaves between the structures and repeating tones. The track swings between differing densities at a canter, eager to showcase the full scale of the view being described through notes and sequences, and it does so effortlessly. 'Tsaar' arrives next, and this one begins with the kicks and some dense textural elements to get things going. The two aren't left alone for long, as a repeating key line comes swinging into view to provide some emotional weight to proceedings, and as time passes by the vocals make their presence known up top. As the vocals continue to mesmerise, the underneath elements begin to double up, with additional sequences being thrown in for good measure as time passes by in the form of winding diving key lines and rhythmical notions. There's time for a long instrumental segment to feature in the back end of the cut, where the listener is really immersed in the comings and goings, the interactivity and even the stillness of finding that little nook within a park that feels well, yours.

'Lonely Stoners' comes next, and this cut begins with the reverbing drums to start proceedings. The spaces between the drums are quickly filled up with a softly undulating synth line, one that spreads itself out across the multiple layers being pushed through to the top ends, but for now the outlay does the job at conveying the notion of being apart from everyone else within a park. Soon after a key line comes in to the mix to add flavour and feel, with additional keys thrown in not too long after which provide further fuel to the fire, and we are left with an atmosphere to really immerse ourselves within. Up next comes 'El Spectacio', and this one begins with the spacey alternative leaning drums to get things going. A beefy synth line then lands itself deep within the mix, which is then joined by the full bass line that weaves from one wavelength to the next, as further melodic lines float their way into the blend with such ease. What we are left with is a all encompassing experience, a totality of notions that walk on by at a nonchalant pace, at ease with themselves and welcoming to the listener. The vocals then arrive, and here they fittingly take the lead, adding enormously to the ongoing audial and visual narrative, hinting at the multitude of activity to come next. The track then reverts back to its instrumental form, bringing together all the previous elements we became friendly with before and pushing them beyond into new states of being. 'Vlakke Zolen' arrives next, and this one begins with the light drums and singular drone to get things started. The drone then gives away to a lead line, before everything opens up with a wonderful arpeggio chiming along underneath with rhythmical purpose, whilst up top there is a series of delightfully textured sweeps that nurture the soul with their perfected tone. The track then breathes for a moment before leading back into the mix head on, as plenty of textural elements slide through into the main view, as we become ensnared in the blends being displayed to us, taking it all in as we remain rooted to the spot. Unreal stuff. Up next comes 'Untitled 08', and this one starts quietly with plenty of textural elements for us to enjoy. Over the horizon line comes the drones of the bass notes along with quietly undulating melodic notions, and the two sequences weave around one another before de-coupling and coming into their own. The keys in particular lift the spirits with their exploratory nature, guiding the eyes from one corner of the room to the next, and this journey leads us into the breakdown where everything comes to a standstill. The explorations that occur here take the mind in all manner of directions, as every space is filled with elements to highlight and feels to get to know, and out of the mists comes the bass line which helps to root the cosmic leanings in place, and like that we continue to drift into the mists, at ease with ourselves and the journey we have been on thus far. To wrap things up, we have 'Parc Royal', a fitting reminder of the space that we have been exploring with our minds. This one has a largely reflective feel to it, a goodbye of sorts, which could be either to our friends, our loved ones, or simply to a daily meander, a normality that came from the desire to be outdoors during lockdown, to exercise and ponderings, to the leaves falling then growing again. Its sombreness is matched by a hope that change is just round the corner, feeling us out from around the corner as we look over our shoulder, the trees acknowledging our presence as we return home, with the knowledge that we will be back real soon. Its a fitting end to a record that serves up so much vitality, of spaces we know and love growing, receding and returning to life, of the rebirth that occurred within so many peoples lives, and of the importance of green spaces that persist in all our lives.

Albums that transform the world around us into a sea of colour, textures and forms are experiences that stick with us for a long time after, and in many ways the success of the record growing arms and legs comes from the concepts and spaces that inspire it. PAL have already shown their melodic and technical qualities with their first release, and when its paired with a space like the Parc Royal, the feels only intensify that little bit more. From the off we are guided around the park as if it is an old and familiar experience, and yet within each track so much is revealed to us, about the band's personal moments with it, the significance of certain places, and the areas that something either beautiful or gloriously mundane occurred in. Each track sings of a differing time, perhaps late at night or during the cracks of dawn, or maybe the busyness of lunch or the quiet still of a Sunday morning, every mood and time frame is catered for. The vocals give weight and gravity to the plethora of styles that slide in underneath, with the genre stylings merging together impeccably in providing a balanced experience that always gives over to us enormously. Its like you can see the last leaves of autumn fade, and the angular cosiness of winter set in, and what a perfect time of year for us to put this album on and dive into our favourite green space. A stellar record, from start to finish.

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