REVIEW: Palberta - Roach Goin' Down


Phillipe Roberts

Palberta announce their presence with a screeching “We’re Palbertaaaaa!” in the closing third of Roach Goin’ Down, delivering a clunky, bass-heavy hip-hop beat sprinkled with blips of detuned guitar. Like a professional wrestler playing their entrance song just before delivering that perfectly choreographed pile-driving finisher, the move would feel anti-climatic and awkward if it wasn’t so characteristically them to ignore any conventional order of operations while spitting on your expectations. Live, the trio switch instruments almost as fast as they leap between ideas, a would-be performance gimmick that illuminates just how damn singular their approaches are behind the kit and in front of an amp. On the strength of showmanship and increasingly bizarre songcraft, Palberta has become a bit of an open-secret sensation, but Roach Goin’ Down is their strongest argument yet for blowing the doors wide open.

For all of those individual qualities and instrumental quirks, what makes Roach Goin’ Down such a big leap over its predecessors is how accomplished they’ve become at fusing them into a seamless—albeit slightly prickly—whole. Highlight track “In My Fame - Jug!” is ruthlessly efficient with melodies. Its first section is a pile-on of scraggly guitar, bass chords, and splashing percussion, ricocheting off each other in a thrilling chain-reaction explosion. As it glides to earth to start part two, soft guitar strums carve a path onwards—not towards a conclusion, but a circular conversation that fades gradually into the distance, a sound they explore again on “Jumping From Lamp to Lamp,” with an added dose of sprightly loneliness.

Indeed, despite the textural and tonal grit that Palberta are fond of, the outright poppiness of punk tracks like “Big Time” sound almost too smooth to be the work of a noise (or noise-inclined, if you will) band—until they tear it off like a BandAid in the last few seconds with a howling sax solo. The titular chanting in “Cherry Baby” cleaves through the wonky pulsing of horns and bass around it, detuned to its surroundings but perfectly preserved in an airtight bubble that’ll keep you humming it for days. Palberta have always performed this delicate balancing act, but these snippets of hypnotic warmth have never sounded so deliberate, even if they come packaged with an equally fierce punchline.

Roach Goin’ Down’s cover art features the visages Ani Ivry-Block, Lily Konigsberg, and Nina Ryser whipped into a single slimy heap, differentiated only by glasses, teeth, and hair, in a real case of blended identity that mirrors the album. Unless you see them perform the songs live, it’s nearly impossible to tell who wrote or played what part. And somehow, the longer you listen to Roach Goin’ Down, or allow yourself to be taken in by the wacky, impulsive construct that is Palberta, the less you feel the violent urge to deconstruct and divide that gooey whole into something piecemeal. If you need things to make microscopic sense, don’t listen to this album. If you want to hear Hall and Oates’ “Rich Girl” transfigured into a Rage Against the Machine-style basher, exposed for the bloated corpse of a track it was by way of annihilation, you may have found your record of the year.

REVIEW: Palberta - Bye Bye Berta

Laura Kerry

The cover of Palberta’s Bye Bye Berta sports a photograph of staff paper with notations that are either erased or on the other side. With only hints of markings visible, the most prevalent feature of the paper is its texture and fold on the upper right corner.

The cover art is a good analog for Palberta’s seventh release, which, though it contains all of the markings of pop and rock music, never quite gels into anything completely comfortable or familiar. With the treatment of Lily Konigsberg, Anina Ivry-Block, and Nina Ryser, the halting, yelping chorus of their cover of “Stayin’ Alive” feels at once familiar and completely alien. Bye Bye Berta doesn’t really resemble anything else.

If they’re like anything, though, Palberta comes closest to punk and its successors, with their attitude of dissent and DIY ethic. Childishness is an aesthetic on their album, as they move from lullabies to screaming fits, wandering, atonal tangents on the guitar to brief snippets of unplaceable sound effects and crashes of percussion. But in all that recklessness, there’s a sense of control. Do they go from a soft, sweet acoustic version of “She Feels That Way” to a frenetic, hard-edged one to make a comment on femalehood? What do the various vocal tones at the end of “Finish My Bread” mean? Should we read the line “This body is my body” as a political statement? I don’t know, but they certainly tempt the listener to wonder.

In addition to intentionality, the band also makes a game of their amateurishness, often switching their instruments mid-concert to change up their sound. The trio seems to revel in these kinds of hijinks. “Hey don't trick me / I'm gonna trick ya,” they yelp in “Trick Ya,” and throughout Bye Bye Berta, they fulfill that promise. “Bells Pt. A” comes after “Bells Pt. B”; songs speed up; songs repeat manically; and songs end abruptly. In several tracks, we hear laughter that ranges from an innocent giggle to a sinister snicker.

Another hoax is in the length and digestibility of the album. At twenty songs, Bye Bye Berta at first appears to be an intimidating epic of an LP, but with all but three songs clocking in under two minutes, the album flies by. Palberta works in bursts, resting for brief moments before launching into wild tantrums of energy. They leave the listener with no time to puzzle or feel too disoriented before another explosion of sound sweeps her up in the frenzy. Bye Bye Berta may never coalesce into something fully legible, but it makes legibility irrelevant. That’s its ultimate trick.

FIELD REPORT: Palm // Palberta // The Cradle

All Photos:  Dylan Johnston

All Photos: Dylan Johnston

Gerard Marcus

History was made last Friday at Palisades. A lucky few fans got the chance to witness the sold-out release show for what might already be one of my personal favorite albums of the year, Palm's Trading Basics. To say I was incredibly, ridiculously excited for this show would be an understatement. Unfortunately, a surprise ten-hour stay in an ER in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn (comically close to the venue) prevented me from going to the show. C'est la vie. But thankfully, our wonderful photographer Dylan Johnston was still able to make it and take some killer photos. It's almost like I was there. Almost.

The Cradle