Emma Palm’s first full-length as No Translation, Inner Distance, crafts spacious aural shapes out of the most intimate and personal moments. As ever, Palm builds her soundscapes primarily using synthesizers and her voice, but the deepest cuts of Inner Distance come from the collected field recordings used that she and her mother, in Tapei, made and sent to each other throughout the last two years. These personal connections draw the music inward as an act of contemplation and connection to navigate the fragile bonds that hold us together.
Palm’s music is captivating in its visceral gentleness. With gauzy tones and guileless arrangements, there’s an expectation that this kind of music might blend into the background. No Translation offers no such relief as the light touch masks the heavy emotional pull of the work. Pieces like “Frame of Reference” and “Two Days” sit within a blurred space, pushing us out into the world while still demanding our rapt attention. Textured footsteps move away on the former, each one a dagger as this figure moves further into the distance surrounded by chirping birds and disembodied voices. “Two Days” attempts to crystallize lost memories from deep within, rising swells and silver echoes still obscuring the sounds just out of sight. We can’t look away or we might miss the part that unlocks the rest.
Inner Distance travels across space and time bridging impossible gaps. Opener “Momentary” glides like a breeze across the ocean, swift and airy, rising toward a gap in the clouds to find the sharpest beam of light. Palm’s voice floats effortlessly, melting into the opulent synth pads to become a glowing shelter. Scratches tiptoe across the glassline surface, like pages being turned in a forgotten story, a reminder of the palaces we’re searching for. It’s soft, magical.
The album is described as ‘gift for Palm’s mother: a healing space where the bold sun of Joshua Tree can reach the city lights of Taipei.’ Within that space there is room for each of us to find our own strength. Gesturing to the starlit sky, the title track bridges the last divide in the closing moments of Inner Distance. Polished stone pathways step toward arpeggiated castle gates, opened for the first time in ages and ready to let our spirits inside. No Translation’s first full-length offering is a slice of the divine.