The chemical make-up of Ice Palace, the band, is 60-percent black coffee (or the associated feeling that makes one feel in the morning time that makes them feel as if they need an entire pot of the stuff, not tampered with or diluted), 20-percent evening doldrums and 20-percent contemplative gloom. Lead singer Adam Sorensen steams with that contemplation, the ruminated coats of mettlesome queries and tumors, those that turn a head into a hive before numbing it into concession - the lemons that never become lemonade.
His voice, when it decides to act, is the bloody pulp, the heavy pulp, the almost suicidal frequency that stems from a depressive patch of time. The music may be mopey (think the Eels), but it's not suicidal mopey (also think the Eels, oddly enough). It's mopey for the sake of the gravity that bears fruit at the end of the vine. It's resigned to be what it is, the crystal clear morning awakening to what came before and possibly unpleasantly before.
Much of appeal to Ice Palace is a kind of relative historical relevance that's peppered through his songs, though it's unspecific and not really historical at all. It's an implied peering into the old lives of someone you never knew and imagining what they were thinking when certain actions occurred. The reason it's sometimes hard for a writer to write well when they're happy comes from the simple logic that when you're happy, you're bored with the subjects that make for good song. You want nothing more than to put all of those sad and depressing details behind you.
It's the same with history and the recording of it. Personal lives are explored more in times of tragedy than they are in times of great calm and comforting love. Sorensen, even when the history is completely fictionalized, gives characteristics to those people in his songs that could only be lifted from great heartache and emotionally tumultuous times. There's a woman, who lost her husband in the Civil War, in one song, who claims to make her living holding hands. It must be for the comfort that it brings and yet the thought, the very sentiment of a woman having lost all the love in her life stringing together whatever variation of that old feeling is enough to make you weep for hours.
Sorensen's voice - that's the trick that does it, a curling of too many cigarettes and empathy to the plight of this grief-stricken shell of a woman -- is rife with comforting reverb, forming a feathered landing strip for the hardened ways of the waking life. It ripples and glides with the doubled-edge of too much and too little, an overbearing collapse of what has to happen and what was feared. It's like through everything this Minneapolis band does. There's dread and sorrow and misery, all in the form of compassionate understanding that it was never planned to be like that.
*Essay originally published October, 2007