Enter the tropical music atrium of Past Palms

High up above on the rooftops with Past Palms, aka Sam Friedman; photographed by DJ Scribbles.

High up above on the rooftops with Past Palms, aka Sam Friedman; photographed by DJ Scribbles.

New York by way of Richmond, Virginia artist Sam Friedman (also of Nerve Leak) has discovered an ecological approach to creating organic ambient electronic atmospheres. Launching the stratosphere swimming project dubbed Past Palms — Sam has effectively made music for greenhouses, a soundtrack for the most posh gardens and inexplicably exquisite atriums. With the launch of the self-titled EP; Friedman orchestrates the perfect outlet for audiences to reconnect themselves to their natural surroundings, with a score that is nothing short of utter and absolutely ineffable splendor.

The Past Palms EP has carved a cozy little place for itself in the grand lineage of influential ambient composers from Julianna Barwick, Brian Eno, Gigi Masin, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Clams Casino and countless more. The EP opens up like a cluster of natural plants and creatures awakening to the sun's rays with the beautiful blend of the natural and the electronic that begins to bloom on "Unfurl". The feel of a brand new day is conveyed with heart, emotion and a host of subdued expressions on the gorgeous "Kentia", as "Livistona" feels like a spa day at a hot spring where sublime rhythms and electro woodwinds paint fantasias for the mind's eye to feast on (that recalls tropes found on various Tycho releases). The synth sequences grow to grand new heights like overgrown Amazon sword plants taking over an opulent foyer on "Majesty", as you are lead to the aptly titled "Bloom" that recalls time-elapsed visuals of flowers blossoming rapidly before the senses of the beholder. The EP will inspire you to start a planter box of your own, purchase some succulents or at least spend some quality time at your local home & garden department with the Past Palms EP playing in your headphones, ear buds or air buds.

Past Palms EP cover art; courtesy of Lee Barnes/Sam Friedman.

Past Palms EP cover art; courtesy of Lee Barnes/Sam Friedman.

Sam Friedman delivered the following manifesto piece on the creation of the Past Palms pop outfit:

Growing up in Richmond, Virginia, I was constantly surrounded by nature; tall trees, deep green grass, lush forests, the ever-flowing James River. I spent my whole life soaking it in, carrying it with me, and intertwining it with my spiritual energy. Eventually, it became background noise and like many of the best things in life, I took it for granted. When I moved to New York several years ago, I buried the part of me that needed nature to feel alive. The diverse street art, towering skyscrapers and industrial cityscape captivated me. I convinced myself that I didn’t need nature. I had the city — the city I had always dreamed of living in.

The honeymoon effect of New York wore off quickly and I was left feeling isolated and withdrawn, yearning for nature in a nature-less place. For the past year, I have been filling my home with tropical houseplants: Bird of Paradise, Kentia Palm, Monstera, Pothos, Philodendron, Rubber Tree and dozens more. Not only do they bring nature into my home, but caring for them gives me a deep sense of purpose and connection. It wasn’t until I started bringing plants indoors that I really allowed myself to reawaken the part of me that thrives off of nature.

One morning, I was working on music, looking around at my plants, and thought; I want to make tropical music. I wasn’t quite sure what I meant by that, but I knew what I felt. I had been in a rut with my other project, Nerve Leak, so this seemed like the perfect time to explore something new. I immediately began envisioning all of the sounds I would hear in a tropical climate; rain falling, bodies of water moving, animals speaking, branches cracking, warm natural noises hissing. I knew I wanted the rest of the sounds to be lush and ambient, but it didn’t feel quite right sticking to just peaceful sounds. After all, I wasn’t in a tropical environment myself; I was in an industrial pocket of Brooklyn with no real nature outside of my apartment. I knew to truly channel my version of a tropical environment I had to include the city elements, which is when I began to add in trap-inflected beats, booming 808 bass drops and lots and lots of distortion.

The project ended up becoming a reflection of my complicated relationship with nature in New York. On one hand, the music is warm, soft, calming and atmospheric. On the other, it’s loud, brash, intense, and over-saturated. I think for many of us living in big cities, we get used to this never-ending song of sirens and trucks, a constant painting of grey and concrete everywhere. To counterbalance that, we fill our homes with nature, but no matter how many tropical plants we have, we’re still in an industrial metropolis. And that’s what the EP is about; yearning for nature in a nature-less place. Sometimes you succeed and feel connected and other times, you feel trapped in a desolate world devoid of natural life.

I chose the moniker Past Palms from a joke about how I feel like I must have been a palm tree in a past life because of how much I crave hot, sunny, tropical weather and how much I wither away during the winter. The EP starts with the song “I. Unfurl”, which represents a new leaf unfolding — it’s the beginning of the plant’s life. It ends with “V. Bloom”, which is for many plant lovers the ultimate sign of a happy plant that is mature and healthy. The music unfurls and blooms just like nature — and in the process, it intersects with brash city noises, creating a calm and chaotic harmony between two disparate worlds.

Listen to more Past Palms via Soundcloud