Review: Charlemagne Palestine + Janek Schaefer – Day Of The Demons

My initiation into the world of Charlemagne Palestine has pushed my tolerance in more ways than one. Strumming Music was an instant love: timbre and harmony churned into sound mush in the relentless rapid-fire of their execution, stretched out over an hour that pushes listener endurance for all its worth (let alone that of its performer). Meanwhile, my recent visit to his live collaboration with Oren Ambarchi was something of a catastrophe. Palestine outright ignored Ambarchi’s input, drunkenly drowning him beneath an assortment orgasm samples, electronic drones and reckless piano abuse – incredibly entertaining stuff for sure, but mighty difficult to stomach.

Either Day Of The Demons enlightens me to an aspect of Palestine’s palette that already exists and I had yet to discover, or the sedative drones Janek Schaefer have managed to lull his collaborative partner into a much gentler meditative state that previously seen. Palestine’s uncompromised charisma still spills into every part of this release, yet unlike the Ambarchi collaboration I witnessed last month, the record is one of intimate connection and attentive response – the sound of two artists entwined, emanating in absolute unison but with their own distinctive tones still very much distinguishable within the chorus.

“Raga de L’apres midi pour Aude” is the first of these two 20-minute pieces: ascending gradually upward through a haze of overlapping organ drone and Palestine’s encircling vocal wails, which quiver awkwardly out from between strained jaws. Various other instruments become audible from within the fog – accordion, strings, piano – but only momentarily, and soon enough they drift back within the vaporous mass of sound, with only Palestine’s vocal harmonies permitted to ascend spiralling above the drones.

In many respects, “Fables From A Far Away Future” is the polar opposite. Where “Raga…” bleeds into itself and becomes a solitary entity, “Fables…” keeps its seams very much on show. An eclectic array of samples are hauled together (bitcrushed children’s prayers, street carnival chatter and the mutterings of various different languages) and slotted in amongst relentless accordion dissonance, clumsy chimes and beautiful rushes of synthesised strings. It’s haphazard, full of contrasting atmospheres that react discordantly to eachother’s company, with voices and field recordings misplaced with dream-like incohesion.

The whole record feels as much of a withholding as it does a creative release. Palestine and Schaefer seem to be on telepathic parallel throughout – effortlessly tuning into eachother’s eerie ambient abstraction – but there’s a sense of imminence throughout, as though Day Of The Demons is a forewarning for something terrible about to occur. The nature of this impending disaster is never disclosed, kept as a shared secret between Palestine and Schaefer: an intimate souvenir of the collaborative experience to be treasured by them and them alone.