Palm /|\ Highway Chase
Escape From New York
AUSTRIA SPECTRUM SPOOLS SP028 LP (2013)
Certain music improves in a moving car: a phenomenon that’s landed me a few lemons over the years, purchase-wise. Over time I’ve learned to check my initial enthusiasm with a sober second test-drive, usually on YouTube, before taking them off the lot. A similarly auspicious first encounter was followed in just such a manner by Spectrum Spools label head, John Elliott, who was driven to release the present recording after losing it to some tunes during a winter burn through Ohio in 2009. A spin on the ipod some time later further revealed that the music could knock productivity up a few gears, and thus began the drive to put it out. But by Elliott’s account, it seems to have been a confounding process, full of wheel-spinning, detours, dead ends, poor directions and only the faintest of signals from the composer himself; all adding to a sinking, ‘road to nowhere’ feeling. But Elliott got his ‘tangible artefact’ after four-odd years of perseverance; his sense of accomplishment adding to esteem in which he evidently holds the record.
And reasonably so, for these nine, nimble, synthesized nibbles amount to more than just a happy Sunday drive. Palm /|\ Highway Chase – a vehemently vintage vehicle – inhabits the outskirts between the blood-splattered dance floors of Umberto and the long stages of fondly remembered Sega games like ‘Outrun’. Inspired by and named after John Carpenter’s ‘80s thriller, which was followed up by a less well-received LA foray, the LP too has eyes glued ahead, from the urban chaos of the Big Apple to the tainted promise of sunny stretches on the west coast, with motor vehicles as the nominal means of transition (‘Street Hawk’, ‘Desert Driver’, ‘Ghost Cars’ etc.). As MIA soundtracks go, it could well have assumed its rightful place on the Death Waltz label, were it not for the fact that its vintage is but illusory.
To these ears it’s still a well-tuned proposition, even if originality is entirely in abeyance. Much of it is high-octane synth-squealing action set to an urgent throb and filtered through the haze of decaying videotape: the sort of thing you’d likely find badly synced to badly filmed car chases and climatic moments that fizzle out before the music does. There is some tasteful build-up and development though, notably during the sparse, evening drive time of ‘Dark Movie Screens’ and the darker atmosphere of ‘Ghost Cars’. And at just 26 minutes long, it’s all green lights and no traffic: definitely worth a spin.