Kai Hugo works in two guises. Palmbomen is a group-oriented collaboration suited for live dynamics and instrumentation, while Palmbomen II is geared toward solitary production with an austere toolset: classic sequencers, time-tested drum machines and their contemporary counterparts. Hugo’s foray as Palmbomen II makes its debut on Beats In Space Records with the eponymous full-length Palmbomen II.
Guided by voices hardwired into machines of house productions past, Hugo found his footing on the road most travelled by pioneering dance producers by following a spontaneous ethos to create Palmbomen II. The live ideology applied to Palmbomen’s 2013 album Night Flight Europa guides this path, yet the true vehicle of Palmbomen II is optimized with a single driver-seat.
Recorded during a summer lockdown in his mother’s attic in their hometown of Breda, The Netherlands, Hugo monastically set forth making Palmbomen II with tools of a seemingly distant trade: machines – to program and to play – and tape – to record the results. By reversing the perceived potential in hardware versus software production, Hugo returned to the creative core sometimes blinded by too much screen glow: make good music and the rest will follow.
“Program the rhythms, arrange the harmonies, play these together, and record to tape. That’s it,” says Hugo. By virtue of Hugo’s reductive approach, Palmbomen II is flagrant with moments that fall outside an “ideal” mix. The album is imbued with a literal human touch. One hears Hugo riding Oberheim DX faders in real time, improvising Arp 2600 patches at the turn of a track, and dripping sweat across Roland TR-909 keys.
Beyond the process of Palmbomen II, the album adheres to two metaphysical atmospheres: his mother’s attic and The X-Files. The attic’s liminality inspired a routine practice of tracking four songs a day for a solid week throughout different parts of the summer. A solitary binge of sorts, the fourteen tracks of the album represent only a portion of the escapist trove Hugo yielded.
Simultaneously, Hugo’s binge-watching of the 90s / early aughts sci-fi television show colored characteristics in his music. Set in Vancouver, The X-Files’ early seasons are felt in the wave-crashing, deep forest melodies of “Cindy Savalas” and “John Lee Roche”, while the languid rhythms of “Carina Sayles” mirrors the human condition as morphed by the show’s extraterrestrial encounters.
Palmbomen II possesses the qualities of an artist slowly slipping from one reality to the next, yet it welcomes listeners to experience this transcendence in tandem. By toeing the primal lines drawn in early electronic production, the base – and bass – from which Hugo explores the fringe remains musically bright and in sight.
Recently relocated to Los Angeles to cruise Shaky Town’s alien lanes, Hugo plans to bring his Palmbomen II project to the live stage with an extensive crew of hardware compatriots. Palmbomen II is available now on double LP, CD, and digital formats via Beats in Space Records.