A celebration of their new album 'Sleepless' in the most serene of surroundings.
Life is all about balance. Taking the rough with the smooth. Conquering the darkness before you with whatever light you have at your disposal. Finding the hidden beauty in something destructive. That process of diving deeper into the things that scare us and learning from them is something that makes us human and something that we can spend our whole life battling with.
Palm Reader have spent their career searching for that very balance and turning it into art. Their efforts have resulted in some of the finest and most forward-thinking heavy music that the UK has produced in a generation, and that’s more notable than ever on their brand new album ‘Sleepless’. A record of immense depth that channels as much harrowing heartache as it does euphoric hopefulness, it’s a triumph in a sea of triumphs and one that will serve as a benchmark for British music for years to come. Such a monumental moment in their time as a band deserves to be celebrated and in a different world that would result in a ravenous crowd baying for blood and sweat-stained sing-alongs aplenty. But that simply isn’t possible right now. So what’s the next best thing?
St Edmund’s Church can be found in the heart of Rochdale, a bustling town located at the foothills of the South Pennines in Greater Manchester. A sanctuary of tranquillity just off the bustling life of Spotland Road, it’s a wonderful structure made even more impressive by its awe-inspiring stained glass windows. It’s that stained glass that towers over Josh McKeown as he takes hold of his microphone and delivers the gut-busting first note of ‘Stay Down’ and the opening crescendo of this release show livestream. The rest of Palm Reader are scattered around him, each with their own space to lose themselves in, as candles flicker from huge spotlights spin and shine making silhouettes of them. It’s a gorgeous and striking contrast between beauty and brutality that allows wave after wave of pure light to bounce off the band as they batter away at their tools and let their savagely immersive sound engulf the room.
More than anything, this performance exists to celebrate ‘Sleepless’ and the boundless compositions that can be found within it, and the band premiere them with real vigour. ‘Willow’ feels even more heart-breaking and raw than the recorded version allows, ‘A Bird And Its Feathers’ lingers in the air like fog at dawn with slow, unfurling melodies and a simply crushing vocal performance and lead single ‘Hold/Release’ grips the throat and squeezes throughout every single one of its guttural leaps and bounds. The acoustic clarity that a venue such as St Edmund’s allows lets each song be heard the exact way it deserves to be and the piercing silence that fills the room as each one finishes only intensifies their power. Though just because we’re celebrating the present doesn’t mean we can’t pay homage to the past too as the band deal out three tracks from ‘18’s incredible ‘Braille’ and within these surroundings ‘Inertia’ has never sounded more delicately affecting, ‘Coalesce’ more spine-tinglingly desolate and 'Internal Winter' more frenzied. It’s a mark not just for how far the band have travelled in the last two years since its release but also how many layers were hidden in the record just waiting to be peeled away.
With one last uppercut in the form of ‘Sleepless’ closer ‘Both Ends Of The Rope’, overflowing with technical brilliance and seething vulnerability, we are left with just aching feedback and time to reflect. In many ways, the last ten years have been leading up to this exact moment for Palm Reader and they have taken their chance to create something truly special with both hands. The result is an effortless, intoxicating and enthralling display of musicianship and songwriting prowess that puts them leagues ahead of their peers, delivered in the most incredible house of worship. In many ways this only feels like the beginning of what the band can achieve, despite being four albums in, but with a piece of art with the apocalyptic proportions that ‘Sleepless’ posesses and a live show like this up their sleeves, there really is no limit on how far they can go.