Palmbomen II – Memories of Cindy

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Memories of Cindy” collects all four of the EPs of the same name by Netherlandish producer Palmbomen II in one release, totalling 22 tracks and forming an album as a whole.

When the EPs dropped, they received a great deal of critical acclaim. Not only did each release contain the trendy lo-fi house sound, Palmbomen II spiced it up with an eighties retro flair; pads that could easily have been extracted from the opening credits of “Twin Peaks”, and a character in the cover art that could just as easily have been Laura Palmer (from an aesthetic standpoint).

Generally, the whole aesthetic of the album leans heavily on the Twin Peaks narrative, which, with the long-awaited release of the acclaimed show’s third season in 2017, was equally as trendy as lo-fi house (if not more). The title – “Memories Of Cindy”, paired with the image of a melancholic girl, laying on ugly, old-fashioned sheets, being viewed through a soft-focus lense, suggests a mournful transience. The narrative is continued with track titles like: “Seventeen”, “Peter Accepts Death” and “Are You Friends With Amber?”.

The videos that Palmbomen II released with the first two parts of the series somewhat set it apart from other works within the lo-fi taxonomy – a weird parody of old TV news shows, including surreal ads and an interview with the artist. These videos reaffirm the aesthetic character of the project, adding an important dimension to the music. Without this feature the release would have had to deal a lot more with the polarised “lo-fi house” tag.

However that’s what it is: A bunch of lo-fi house tracks, with short, ambient pad excursions. These excursions do have potential however – the sounds are built in such a way that they really could have been ripped straight from an eighties TV advert. And the subtle, enchanting whispers and choral vocal washes that feature throughout do often blend into ethereality. Palmbomen II creates a juxtaposition of atmospheres – a mixture of nostalgia, dreaminess and melancholy. It’s a very common, yet hard to define mood that he encapsulates. But he fails to go further than this. Each composition feels interchangeable with others in the same vein, whether it’s an ambient piece or a housey cut, making it difficult to pinpoint a handful of standout moments. The modulations seem to recur formulaically as the album progresses, by which point it’s grown predictable, making it difficult to maintain interest.

The fault of “Memories of Cindy” lies in its accumulation of tracks that are all too similar. They are cohesive, which is good, and on an EP this might seem very balanced, but released as an album this quality turns against itself. It’s hard to say if this was planned more as an album or as several EPs, but had it stayed the latter, it would have been better.