There’s always a level of intensity that must be maintained by Chino Moreno, a hot air balloon filled with spite and kept aloft with rage. While that’s been true with his heaving alt-metal ensemble Deftones for decades, it’s also the case when it comes to the vocalist and lyricist’s side projects, such as Palms and †††. Heightened by Moreno’s theatrical tenor vocals—airier here, even calmer—and crafted more sparely than the heavy music of Deftones with producer/multi-instrumentalist Shaun Lopez, ††† are no less dense in their music or their messaging. Despite their occasional synth-pop vibe and even the fact that they recently covered George Michael’s “One More Try,” you couldn’t call the wily Moreno/Lopez pairing light and fluffy listening.
With one album and three EPs under their belt since 2011, the newest ††† EP, PERMANENT.RADIANT, never ceases to thrill, even in its quietest measures. The eerily detuned synths and puckering, page-flipping sequenced percussion of “Holier” open the door to Moreno’s search for humanity in a mechanical world, while “Vivien” toys ever so slightly with the sensual sway of Britney Spears’ “...Baby One More Time.” While the strolling synth-hop pace and sheen of “Cadavre Exquis” and “Procession” take their holy rolling seriously (maybe a little too seriously), the grouchy monotone vocal line of “Sensation” is highlighted by a needling, high-pitched whinny and an all-around wobbliness until Moreno’s harmonies kick in, joining a set of cascading drums and scuzzy guitar in a slow waltz to the finish line.
The short, sharp bursts of ††† EPs are fine, and certainly prove a sense of progression and ease by the time of PERMANENT.RADIANT. But a full album’s perspective is warranted when it comes to this imposing but improbably shiniest of Moreno’s side gigs.