Amanda Palmer's "Machete" is the singer-songwriter's first full-band production since 2012, but the six-minute track makes up for lost time with its epic scope. "I have never liked the box of knives you said was a paradox because you're kind," she chants over pounding piano and surging string orchestrations, the mood shifting back and forth between heavy and ruminative.
"Machete," which premiered at Stereogum, is available to stream and purchase (in a "name your price" scenario) at Bandcamp. The track features Palmer on piano, "spiritual editor" Ben Folds on drums, Ryan Lerman on guitar and producer/string arranger Jherek Bischoff on bass. Bischoff recently collaborated with Palmer on the David Bowie tribute EP Strung Out in Heaven, which came out in February.
For the past year, Palmer has been releasing music via the Patreon system, where her patrons (now over 7,000) donate one dollar with each new track. She discusses that unique creative platform, her unexpected career arc in recent years and the inspiration behind "Machete" in a statement issued to Stereogum.
"I've released ten pieces of Patreon content this year and this one, 'Machete,' is my first full-band production since recording 'Theatre is Evil' in 2012 with John Congleton," Palmer writes. "Since then, I've been pulled and stretched by lots of off-road opportunities: a Kickstarter, a Kickstarter kerfuffle, a TED talk about the Kickstarter kerfuffle, a book about the TED talk (which wound up being more of a meditation on the art of asking), a pregnancy, and (wait for it) a baby."
"Machete" was inspired by Palmer's "best friend" and "spiritual mentor" Anthony, who died this summer from a rare form of leukemia.
"He was a total goddamn contradiction," she writes. "He yelled at waiters, he yelled in traffic, he gave me my first can of mace, and he collected guns, sabers, brass knuckles and nunchucks. He had boxes of exotic knives. A Buddhist weapon-obsessive. His private therapists' study where we did our deep talking and bonding, my teenage haven, was decorated with boxing gloves and rifles. We did not hold the same stance on gun control. I told him I wanted all the guns to be bought back by the government and hurled into the ocean."
She continues by explaining: "He often told me he would leave me the whole collection, and when he died this summer, I knew there was a song in there somewhere. And there was; it emerged about five months after he died and two months after I gave birth to [her son, Anthony]. I recorded it about a month later with the loving encouragement of my friends … We used my patreon budget to record it over two days in two studios in L.A. while I was there for Christmas visiting relatives. I still don't know what I'm going to do with the arsenal. Maybe I'll leave it to the baby when I die and he can deal with it."