The Golden Palominos

All That Glitters . . .

The Golden Palominos are the brainchild of New York percussionist, Anton Fier. Not really a band, the Palominos exist more as a loose collective of musicians who Anton draws upon to produce his musical ideas. The seven albums over the last twelve years have enticed everyone from Michael Stipe (REM), John Lydon (PiL), Matthew Sweet and Bob Mould to the recent line-up of Lori Carson, Lydia Kavanagh and Bootsy Collins alongside the more permanent fixtures of Bill Laswell and Nicky Skopelitis. The new album, Pure, and its predecessor, This Is How It Feels, which included the killer bass groove of Prison Of The Rhythm, conclude a trilogy of work that Anton Fier began with a release not attributed to the Palominos, called Dreamspeed on John Zorn's Japanese label, Disk Union. I spoke to Anton Fier via the rather clichéd information superhighway, in New York about this trilogy of work, and the future of the Palominos.

'I think its a misconception to consider the Palominos a band and although I am the leader I view the works more as collaborations . . . the Palominos are an outlet for me to explore the areas of music that interest me at the time, and an opportunity for me to work with the people I am interested in working with, as such its a very self-indulgent project . . . the direction will change; I've made two [Palominos] records now that are in a similar vein and the only constant in the Palominos should be that it will change. I've been very conscious not to repeat myself because I feel that if I make another record with the same people it will begin to be the same'. Anton goes on to describe the style of the last releases; 'I view the Dreamspeed record as a Japanese version of what I was doing with the Palominos and it laid the groundwork for This Is How It Feels and now for Pure. These works show me pushing the boundaries and are more rhythm-oriented and less song-based than earlier Palominos work'.

The Golden Palominos have tried to steer a path between rock and dance music blending the best elements of the two. On Pure, This Is How It Feels, and Dreamspeed, the rhythms stem from a hip-hop techno hybrid whilst the vocals complement rather than dominate the instruments. Perhaps it is because of the emergence of dance music as a major youth cultural movement that such mutation and cross-breeding of styles can occur. 'I think it has become a bit easier to push the boundaries, so to speak, with the emergence of techno as a broadbased phenomenon. In terms of the audience, I feel the need and the hunger for something different has always been there but now with techno and hip-hop, two very popular movements, there are more points of access to different sorts of music. I mean techno and hip-hop are both very extreme forms of music and, to me, are very creative forms of music - fortunately, what is popular, in terms of youth culture rather than mass market, and what is creative seem to have overlapped . . . unfortunately the independent record scene in America is still very much guitar-oriented rock music. Hip-hop is very much a part of youth culture here and the more extreme it is the more popular it is, not only amongst Black Americans, but also amongst White youth. Techno is not really happening here yet. There are small pockets here and there - San Francisco and LA - but in New York it is very small.'

Dominated by major labels trying in vain to push recycled 60s and 70s rock in 90s clothes onto an unreceptive, MTV blipvert reared youth audience, a split seems to have opened up in which experimentation is blossoming. Without the problems that size has brought upon the European and English dance scenes with their self-classification and self-marginalisation, a thousand techno splinters vying for DJ rotation and the formation of an equally sinister 'underground' music mafia, America may be the unlikely breeding ground for something new. Anton Fier emphasises; 'I'm trying to make music that doesn't fit into the neat pockets [of the music industry] but falls somewhere between. People don't know how to market it - its not this, its not that' - so I feel I am succeeding on some level'. Lyrically, the work of the Palominos has been confined very much to well-worn themes, something that, to me at least, allows an access point for the indie-reared American listener. Familiar choruses may be gone but the cultural themes in the lyrics offer signposts for a cautious and unsure listener. Whether this is bad, in the light of lyric-free techno is debatable; 'I don't write the lyrics but I have a lot of input into the basic themes. Most art, literature, music and film deal with a few subjects - spirituality, death love and sexuality - and these are very universal themes . . . we are using a lot of spoken word and the vocals are more another rhythm instrument on these last few albums.'

As for the future of the Palominos, now that Anton seems so set on change, things look very bright. On the Divine Kiss EP, essentially remixes of Prison Of The Rhythm, Adam Peters and the Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia were called in to do the work. On the first single from Pure, Heaven, Terre Thaemlitz casts a magical spell on the track transforming it into an Orb-like piece of ambience. 'Terre Thaemlitz is one of the few New York artists that are working in the ambient side of techno. I was particularly taken by his Comatone release and his more recent Tranquilliser album on New York techno label, Instinct. In terms of New York he is the most creative and advanced person working in that area. English group Bandulu have remixed No Skin for release later this year. Bandulu use dub influences as well as more traditional techno styles and were approached because they also fall between the cracks'. A more ambient trance Palominos seems inevitable. Or is it?

'I'd very much like to do some work with Diamanda Galas [an opera screamer, feminist activist and performance artist renowned for her amazing multi-octaved voice and her fabulous AIDS trilogy - The Masque Of Red Death], the Australian composer Paul Schulze [who has releases on Extreme and as Uzect Plaush on R&S] whose work I admire greatly, and the English band Seefeel . . . Currently I am listening to Seefeel's Fractured/Tied on Warp, the Ambient Four compilation on Virgin called Isolationism, the R&S compilation In Order To Dance Five, a Swedish singer called Steena Nordenstam, who has an incredibly beautiful record - And She Closed Her Eyes on EastWest, and I'm still listening to Selected Ambient Works II from the Aphex Twin - it holds my interest'.

Phenomenal bass player, Bill Laswell, who is a permanent fixture in the Palominos and plays on Anton's Dreamspeed project, has brought cult German label, Fax Records, to prominence in America through collaborations with Fax instigator, Peter Namlook on Psychonavigation and Outland, and other Fax artists such as Jonah Sharp, on Visitation, Japan's Tetsu Inoue on Cymatic Scan, and a solo project called Outer Dark. Anton comments; 'I've heard a lot of stuff on Fax Records, too. I like the Atom Heart records but I'm not a great fan of Pete Namlook. He releases an incredible number of records [at the rate of one a week] but I don't feel he puts enough work into them . . . you could make a fantastic compilation though. On the otherhand, I have an enormous amount of respect for him - I mean his committment - and I think he has almost created a new form of improvisation. I respect more the concept behind his work than the actual end product itself'.

Anton Fier has an ear for the best of the seething mass of hip' releases of the week, and his tastes span too many subcultures to confine the future of the Palominos to one particular genre. Combining with Bill Laswell and Nicky Skopelitis, both of whom have their fingers in a vast number of pies from funk to hip hop, from industrial metal to ambient dub, the Palominos future will indeed be interesting to chart.

Yellow Peril

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