The 'Floating Palace' EP by Floating PalaceReview
Many thanks to James Knight of the Stingo Collective for alerting me to the latest band to emerge from under their nurturing umbrella: Floating Palace. That'll mean that two of my first three reviews of 2024 will be of groups making their debut in the magazine, which I find encouraging.
The band's eponymous debut EP comprises three tracks (namely "Sandalwood", "Dragonsblood" and "Oudh") and features founders Dylan Glenny drumming and playing percussion and Mark Wingate on electric guitar plus James himself on another electric guitar, his Green Hands bandmate Jack Telford on bass guitar and Christie Cremin on keyboards, synths, percussion & acoustic guitar,
It all sounds rather spontaneous, being self recorded "over the course of a few hours" with a small number of mics (with Christie producing and Pete Maher handling the mastering) with the songs emerging "organically" from jams (though since the band was created by Dylan and Mark back in 2022, I assume they've been playing other material in that time too).
The styles feeding into these jams are eclectic to say the least but give the name of the third track, you may have already guessed at the prominence of an African theme & particularly North African (though I'm not sure I can hear that instrument itself being played: it's not in the credits either).
British engagement with this fascinating tradition has a few noble examples, such as Brian Jones' championing of the Master Musicians of Joujouka, but generally, given I'm afraid their colonial history, this is more the sort of style which has informed much French music: often in very radical ways given its prominence in the cultures of those coming to the country from post-colonial starting points and bringing their music to soundtrack various forms of protest against injustices experienced on arrival & subsequently for communities born & grown up in France from North African heritages. To be honest, I probably know some of the sounds Floating Palace are utilising best through the filter of contemporary French urban music: so kudos to the band for tapping into this.
Not that reducing their work to a purely Maghrebi influenced set of songs is fair: they themselves also identify input from such diverse sources as "dusty 70s Funk & Soul (seen through the lens of Hip Hop)...Desert Rock….Zamrock,..Ethio Jazz-Funk, 60s & 70s Psych Rock, film, skate & surf soundtracks and Dub…" So a rich mixture to be sure.
And it works nicely.
The obvious danger here is cultural appropriation and the band skilfully evade the charge through this complex and detailed displays of influences informing their own musical pieces without resorting to attempting facsimiles of music from cultures of which they are not themselves members: it's respectful & opens ears to music which many people may not have heard before without trying to pass off the sounds of others as their own.
As befits jam-generated tracks, each exceeds five minutes, but thankfully not by much. Somewhere in the process, editing has presumably occurred and tracks don't meander any more than their innate qualities require (it's dreamy music for the most part so we need to cut it some slack) and any self indulgence would have been removed between the jam stage and the mastering one.
I personally liked the prominence of loping insistent basslines, given the sort of foregrounding in the mix typical of dub and which act as anchors for all sorts of expeditions and experiments by the other instruments which provide the moments of delicacy and tension and yet are respectful of each other, yielding space repeatedly. It's this carousel of different instrumental parts which keep the tracks interesting too: creative ideas continually spring up but none outstays their welcome, giving way to others for variety. The potential for blissed out noodling was no doubt there in principle, but the method thankfully excludes it.
A record of mood & place…. I liked it. I can see it being on an evening playlist but you might well find other times in your day for it too.