The Golden Palominos

The Golden Palominos were an American musical group headed by drummer and composer Anton Fier, first formed in 1981. Apart from Fier, the Palominos membership was wildly elastic, with only Bill Laswell and Nicky Skopelitis appearing on every album (though sometimes only on a small portion). While the Palominos records usually featured a core set of musicians and emotional feel though the bulk of an album, various guest appearances would result in some stylistic changes from track to track.


Initial line-up

The group first featured Fier, singer-guitarist Arto Lindsay, saxophonist John Zorn, bass guitarist Bill Laswell and violinist/guitarist Fred Frith. Their self-titled debut album was released on New York's Celluloid Records in 1983, and featured guests appearances by bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma, guitarist Nicky Skopelitis, percussionist David Moss, guitarist/singer Bob Kidney, turntablist M.E. Miller and others. The album is notable for having some of the first recorded turntable scratching outside of rap music, courtesy of Laswell and M.E. Miller. M.E.Miller also used vocal splitting technique to create harmony on the song he sings.

They were heavily influenced by so-called no wave music (Arto Lindsay had played in the seminal no-wave band DNA), but their music also contained elements of funk and of the improvisational jazz stylings that would become Zorn's trademark. This line-up lasted only for the first record, although all of the core members apart from Zorn would guest on subsequent Palominos recordings.


The Palominos' next album, 1985's Visions of Excess, would sound vastly different, leaning towards songs more in a folk vein, with a sound in some respects pre-dating the emergence of the alt-country genre by a few years; However, in an example of a stylistic jump, one song, "The Animal Speaks", featured a pronounced, punk-like electric guitar part and vocals by The Sex Pistols' John Lydon. This record was also noteworthy as the debut of singer Syd Straw, whose songwriting and vocals would be featured prominently on this record and the next, Blast Of Silence. Cream's Jack Bruce, guitarists Richard Thompson and Jody Harris, and R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe also appeared on the record. Of the band members that were on the first record, only Fier, Laswell and Arto Lindsay had remained.

Blast Of Silence was released the following year, carrying on in much of the same vein as Visions Of Excess and with appearances by many of the same personnel. It included covers of two songs written by Little Feat's Lowell George, both sung by Syd Straw. The record also featured prominent guest appearances by Matthew Sweet, Don Dixon, Peter Holsapple and T-Bone Burnett.

A Dead Horse (1989) carried on in the sound of its predecessors slightly, but some of the songs also crossed into a darker, more ambient and ethereal sound, a sound which would dominate the Palomino records of the 1990s. Syd Straw had moved on and was no longer in the band, with most of the vocals now handled by Amanda Kramer, formerly of the dance music group Information Society. Fier would later guest on Straw's first solo record, Surprise.


Drunk With Passion marked the first record not on Celluloid Records, with its sound taking from some of the darker cues heard on A Dead Horse and also using more processed and electronic sounds, giving many of its songs an ethereal feel. This album could be argued was more influenced by its guest appearances than any of the others, who included Hüsker Dü's Bob Mould (who would go on to form the band Sugar the following year), Richard Thompson, and Michael Stipe, who would provide (along with a forceful solo by Thompson) one of the band's finer moments, the opening track "Alive And Living Now". Nicky Skopelitis would also became more of a cornerstone of the band, contributing to the bulk of Drunk With Passion's songs along with Fier and Kramer. In 1992, Fier would release his first solo record, Dreamspeed, which is partially a reworking of the Palomino's next album, This Is How It Feels.

This Is How It Feels, released on Restless Records in 1993, continued on in much of the ambient sound of Drunk With Passion, but it also incorporated many elements of club and trance music. It also marked the introduction of new lead vocalist Lori Carson, who co-wrote nine of the CD's tracks with Anton Fier. Bill Laswell also returned to contribute on this record, and his production work on this and on the following record, Pure, would heavily influence Laswell's own remix work of the late 90's, as seen on the CDs Emerald Ather and City Of Light. The album also contains the first cover song since Visions Of Excess, an ethereal, drum-machine laced re-interpretation of Jackson Browne's "These Days". To further highlight the album's dance elements, an EP of remixes of songs from This Is How It Feels , entitled Prison Of The Rhythm, was released shortly after the CD's release.

Pure, released a year later, is seen by many as the band's most focused work, due much to the strong contributions once again of Carson, Laswell, and Skopelitis. Tracks such as "No Skin" and "Pure" continue in the dance/ambient style of the previous album. The CD would also stir a minor controversy over the bare female breast on its cover, with some stores only carrying a version of the CD with a booklet where the cover had been replaced by simple, text-based artwork. Another remix EP (No Thought, No Breath, No Eyes, No Heart) accompanied Pure's release.

Pure would also be the last Palominos record for Lori Carson; However, interestingly, the song "Little Suicides", from Pure showed much of same sparse sound, production, and strong yet quiet vocals (albeit less electronic) that would influence Carson's solo work. Anton Fier would produce Carson's 1995 solo record, Where It Goes.

1994 also saw the release of what was essentially Fier's second solo recording, Absence of Time (released under the moniker Blind Light), which used outtakes from Pure for much of its framework.


Dead Inside (1996) was another stylistic turnaround for the Palominos, and their last proper album. This time, the record had a deathly, industrial sound, with the line-up consisting only of Fier, multi-instrumentalist Knox Chandler (who before joining the Palominos, was also in a band with Lori Carson), Nicky Skopelitis, and poet Nicole Blackman. Blackman's dark and deliberate lyrics (tellingly, Blackman had also recently worked with the industrial German band KMFDM) made Dead Inside a challenging record; its sound and tone stand out decidedly as unlike any of the others. The album's opener is the brutal, spoken-word track, "Victim".

In 1997, The Palominos released another EP, named Dead Outside, composed of five remixes of tracks from Dead Inside. However, this EP was released as free MP3s on the Internet, made available for a limited time through Nicole Blackman's website and also through a fan-created band website (since decommissioned).

"Dead Outside" consisted of these five remixes, which were available for download for one month only, as per Fier's instructions. 'Victim: The Last Thing' by Sean Beavan (whose credits include 8MM/Nine Inch Nails/Marilyn Manson) with John Van Eaton (a frequent Blackman collaborator who has worked with NIN for 10 years) 'Ride: Pragmatic Spasmatic' by Raymond Watts (of KMFDM/Pig) "Belfast: Empty As Wire" by Scanner (another Blackman collaborator) "Ride" by Mark Walk (of Ruby) "Victim: Interference" by John Van Eaton

Review of collection works

Much of the Golden Palominos work has become increasingly hard to find, and compilations do not provide a complete overview of their work. A few best-of compilations are available: two A History collections on Celluloid both released in 1992; a German collection released in 1997; and 2002's collection Run Pony Run. However, none include any material from Drunk With Passion onward. The later albums on Restless are growing harder to find on CD, with the earliest CDs on Celluloid and Drunk With Passion being nearly non-existent. (Dreamspeed is also extremely rare in its original release and is a prized possession of Fier aficionados. However, Fier would re-release it and his other solo record, Absence of Time, on John Zorn's Tzadik label in late 2003.)

Post-Palominos careers

Both Syd Straw and Lori Carson have gone on to moderately successful (but critically acclaimed) solo careers, with Carson a frequent contributor to television shows and movies. A compilation of some of Carson's contributed songs, called Stolen Beauty, was released by Rykodisc in 2003, and a new Carson solo record, The Finest Thing, was then released in 2004.


Title Release Date Label
The Golden Palominos 1983 Celluloid
Visions of Excess 1985 Celluloid
Blast Of Silence 1986 Celluloid
A Dead Horse 1989 Celluloid
Drunk With Passion 1991 Nation
This Is How It Feels 1993 Restless
Prison Of The Rhythm (EP) 1993
Pure 1994 Restless
No Thought, No Breath, No Eyes, No Heart (EP) 1994 Restless
Dead Inside 1996 Restless
Dead Outside (EP) 1997 Restless

External links


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