by Josh Ginsberg (@world0fdarkness)
In the church of strange, there is no organ. There is no scripture and there are no walls. There are only bodies and objects that may enter into conversation and commune with one another as equals—two-way conduits in wordless dialogue with unknowable others, past language. Hudson, New York’s Palberta are parishioners and priestesses of the church of strange and Bye Bye Berta is an arresting document of beauty born from wilderness. Lily Konigsberg, Anina Ivry-Block and Nina Ryser are expert singers and masterful curators. Their seventh release as Palberta offers a stark musical experience unlike any others you’re likely to hear.
Bye Bye Berta occupies a strange place inside the tradition of albums. There are precedents for its leaps in sequencing and tonal transformations—its jumps from hymnal to hardcore to heavy-handed approximations of tape-hiss hell. Its tracklist facilitates the experience of channel surfing on an oppressive planet (I imagine it as something like the home of the bad guys from Space Jam), whose overlords have just been overthrown by its untouchables, who now broadcast their freedom on every channel, manic. Made to serve all their lives, they now play the freest sounds. Bye Bye Berta stands in stark contrast from the collaged together music of Guided By Voices. The striking sonic cohesion of the album’s twenty tracks makes Bye Bye Berta sound like a continuous piece of music that uses a finite set of timbres and players to leap, veer, accelerate, slash, halt and spin as far and hard as sound can travel.
Palberta deals in juxtapositions. They nest sweet melodies amid the chaotic slashing of lofi hi-hats and tri-tones of “Why’d You Cry,” just as they build a cathedral of human voices atop a pit of twisting snakes on “Why Didn’t I.” Palberta is very much unlike the scores of bands who set out to explore but remain devoted to the orthodoxy of punk or hardcore. Palberta revere nothing. Instead, Bye Bye Berta looks like an elephant graveyard made of rejiggered fragments of punk, haunted by muted brass, impeccably clean harmonies and the dissonance of toy pianos. Childish charm and monstrous power lurk around each corner, and one can never be sure when the next corner will be turned. As soon as you find yourself lulled into a trance by “Honey Baby,” the serrated convulsions of “Pick Up the Phone” threaten to make your heart explode. The Funkadelic-meets-Horror-Flick harmonies of “Stayin’ Alive” are set amid a swarm of vocalizations that hover at the meeting point between a slasher flick and a 7th grade slumber party. And then suddenly, you find yourself in the slow motion cartoon ominousness of “Get Around” but that doesn’t last long either and before you know it “Filling Empty” ends and “Why Didn’t I” begins again and you get to ride this thing again. Best part is, the twists keep coming. There’s no map for Bye Bye Berta and that’s the point.