Charlemagne Palestine and Rrose | The Goldennn Meeenn + Sheeen
A new performance of an old composition, The Goldennn Meeenn + Sheeen was originally written for two pianos played by Palestine himself, but is here re-recorded with the additional support of Rrose. To describe it as typical Palestine fare would be both woefully simplistic and entirely accurate – we hear the two performers ‘strum’ their pianos, a technique now synonymous with the composer, each exploring ostensibly a simple harmonic relationship over extended time periods. With The Goldennn Meeenn it is the octave that takes centre stage – a gradual increase of density and force accents the otherwise monotonic hammering of the keys, with nearly 8 minutes passing before the first noticeable change – the addition of a higher octave. Those familiar with Palestine’s work will understand the appeal – the quick succession of fluttering keys and limited tonalities amount to a hypnotic soundscape, where the minor inflection of the hand eventually provide as much weight and gravitas as ‘proper’ changes in more melodic music.
Though the focus on octave relationships is interesting, it’s similarity to ‘strumming music’ and its various incarnations is implicit, and its hard to hear how the most obvious and over-used harmonic relationship the piano can offer is as interesting as Palestine’s other similar explorations. In that respect, length of the work is important here – it is in those moments beyond the 15 minute mark, where any hope of appreciating structure or form in a traditional sense are lost, that the music comes alive. The same limitation that somewhat pacifies the earlier sections helps bring these later sections to life, with the listener lost in a frantically reduced landscape. Again, however, these parts are compromised somewhat by the focus on octaves – the jump between intervals is so dramatic that it shatters the reverie afforded by the constant hammering, throwing the listener from their trance-like state. Though this is not always the case – the introduction of very high octaves adds an intense colouring to the existing density, rather than replacing it – the overall effect is on occasion a little more underwhelming than Palestine’s strumming approach has ever been before.
The second track, Sheen, continues in much the same vein, though seemingly abandoning the focus on octaves in favour of a much more ‘traditional’ strumming. Here, the sheer volume of repetition is engulfing, and without the sudden jumps of the prior piece, the listener is more easily lost in the cascading whims of Palestine’s style. There is no evident disparity between the performers, suggesting that Rrose has admirably invested in Palestine’s technique, adding no unnecessary stylistic flourish. As is expected, it takes nearly 10 minutes to draw you in, but once it does you are treated to an unnerving wash of trills and strums, with some wonderful narratives emerging from the dense and repetitive cloud that the performers draw out of their instruments. The second half of the track is a stunning reminder of why the technique of strumming is so effective – the piano swells tentatively, oscillating between a bee-like chorus of endless strikes to more subtle, uncertain waltz, the tempo fluctuating slightly, pushing and pulling at the senses. By the time we reach its conclusion – more a dissipation than an ending proper, Palestine and Rrose have taken us on a journey of quite epic proportions.
Whilst the album in no real way adds to Palestine’s repertoire, fans will be glad to hear another example of this technique, and the inclusion of Rrose demonstrates that s/he is a fitting successor, and more than capable of handling Palestine’s nuanced work.