Gladiolus Tristis is Aaron de Kock’s, better known as RT Palmer‘s, second official EP. This project follows his 2021 release, Amalgamate, which featured BLACACTUS. Gladiolus Tristis marks the first-ever solo project from RT Palmer and is one that he took the time to meticulously curate into the oscillating seven-part production that was released on 9 December. 

The EP is one that was created in the true form of a solo artist’s debut work — with immense challenges and imaginative craftsmanship combined to create something that reflects RT Palmer’s stratified mind. 

Gladiolus Tristis is the result of him buying a production interface on credit, recording in his home studio (also known as his bedroom), using socks and blankets as sound buffers, and trying to mix and master on a laptop that kept crashing. 

The title of this EP, Gladiolus Tristis, is the scientific name of the flower we are all familiar with, the honeysuckle. It symbolises finding true happiness and strength of character. A Gladiolus Tristis is also what graces the cover of this EP. 

Trying to classify this EP, and RT Palmer’s overall sound, as one specific genre, is completely out of the question. He uniquely combines quintessential reggae beats with a more progressive and psychedelic sound. 

“I sometimes think of that scene from the Titanic, where the musicians keep on playing as the ship is sinking, and I feel that might be a little bit of what I am trying to do; except I don’t know who or what the ship is meant to be; and I don’t know whether it is sinking or flying,” Aaron shares. 

Some of the standout tracks on the EP were ‘The Idea of Being Broken’, ‘Mind Greater Than Brain’, and ‘Bitter Life, Sweet Love’.

Coming to terms with ‘The Idea of Being Broken’

Gladiolus Tristis’s first track is titled ‘The Idea of Being Broken’ and is aptly named. It starts off with a scattered beat, and RT Palmer comes in with lyrics that begin to question reality and unpack his own mind and being. Towards the end of ‘The Idea of Being Broken’, he smoothly transitions into soft vocals and slows down the tempo. 

RT Palmer
[RT Palmer and BLACACTUS are two best friends who explored the inner and outer worlds through music. PHOTO: Supplied/RT Palmer]

The scattered beat and rhythm throughout this track, combined with the constant questioning within the lyrics, give the listener some insight into the internal struggles faced by the artist and whether some of his questions will ever be answered. 

The question remains — ‘Mind > Brain’?

Fourth on the lineup is a song titled ‘Mind > Brain’. This track stands out due to the fast-paced spoken word style lyrics that are accompanied by a smooth vocal backtrack. The hook of ‘Mind > Brain’ is revealed later, towards the end, and is a catchy way to keep the listener entranced until the last second. 

The beat produced is true to RT Palmer’s signature style — keeping the balance between reggae and psychedelia on a tightrope.

Ending off with ‘Bitter Life, Sweet Love’

To conclude Gladiolus Tristis, RT Palmer slows it down with a track titled ‘Bitter Life, Sweet Love’. This final track has a more melancholy sound compared to the more up-tempo sound of the rest of the EP. 

He ends off on a similar note to how the EP began, by reflecting on his own thoughts and unpacking each shelf of his mind.  

At first listen, Gladiolus Tristis is a puzzle and a brainteaser. After giving it time to settle and unpacking the complexity of each track, it is one that keeps you coming back for more. On a second listen, you’ll notice that the EP is peppered with double entendres and new meanings.  

Author

It’s a good thing I’m better at my job than I am at driving. Otherwise, we’d all be in big trouble. On the note of things I enjoy more than driving, the local music scene is very dear to my heart — put me in a crowd in front of a band instead of behind the steering wheel any day of the week.

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