Three years ago, a three-track demo appeared on Bandcamp credited to Palm Springs, a duo comprising Melbourne songwriter Erica Dunn and drummer Raquel Solier. The lead track was a dark country ballad called ‘Winning & Losing’ – a real heartstopper. Its gruff blues riff staggered through an ocean of cymbal crashes, matched by Dunn’s vocals, bellowing with the shock of rejection: “I never thought that I’d be the one who would lose / I never thought I’d be the one cut loose”.
The duo went quiet after that. Dunn travelled the US and played in a host of other bands – including Harmony and the SMB – while Solier focused on her experimental RnB project, Fatti Frances, and later had her first child. But last week Palm Springs’ official debut finally landed, in the form of twin seven inches 300 Acres / The Last Hour and Mexican Gem / Golden Dust, each with a complementary digital version featuring a handful of bonus tracks.
The releases were recorded at the same time, during a session held late last year at Melbourne’s Headgap Studios, and were intended to become a single album. The songs, however, were written at very different times in Dunn’s life and, after some thought, she decided they didn’t sit quite right together. So they were split into the sparse, pastoral folk of 300 Acres and the fuller, more diverse Mexican Gem – which ranges from the opener’s motorik hum (it sounds almost like the first Stereolab EPs) to the fingerpicking ditty ‘A List’.
Both collections are filled with aching dirges, guitar strings that buzz and bend, solos played down low, Solier’s loping drum beats and Dunn’s rich, dusty vocals. They call to mind 90s-era Drag City Records, traditional rhythm and blues, Sharon Van Etten and early Cat Power – even Paul Kelly, at times. These tracks are simple and strong; classic bare-bones songwriting.
Palm Springs are launching the seven inches this Saturday, 24 October, upstairs at the Tote with Sarah Mary Chadwick and Sweet Whirl. The vinyl’s out now via Rice is Nice and Dunn’s own (delightfully titled) Palm Springsteen Records.