Balmorhea – Constellations

balmorheadRating: ★★★☆☆

Last year, Austin’s Balmorhea released their grandiose coffee-core album , All is Wild, All is Silent, to much critical acclaim. Its epic sprawl captivated listeners.  Celebrating the dynamics in the title, it was an album of polar opposites, sometimes soft, and other times more upbeat. However, with their newest album, Constellations, there is nothing for the musicians to battle, only the black emptiness that is dotted by billions upon billions of sparkling stars.

For the most part, the band succeeds in fulfilling the aesthetic instilled in listeners who pay close attention to the title of the album.  Everywhere you look, there seems to be empty space on the album, or places the band could have easily filled with limitless touches of their inspiring instrumentals.  But, where as they chose to let those moments loose on All is Wild, All is Silent, here they show restraint, barely letting the control out of their crafty hands.

Some listeners might yearn for the more moving moments of the past, but Balmorhea seem keen not to repeat themselves, which is an honorable stand for an up-and-coming group; Constellations is not the same album, and it refuses to be such.  Instead of forcing violins and piano work into the organic construction of the songs, these kids hold back, filling the spaces with just the right amount of music necessary to hold onto listeners.  The most spirited you find them is on “Bowsprit,” a song you will adore if you love to hear the sounds of a string instrument (even guitar or banjo) plucked properly.  But, if you came in search of a repeat performance from last year, then you will be severely disappointed, as the one thing this album lacks if proper movement; at times it seems far too stagnant for its own good.

But, one thing that made their debut album so convincing was the way the songs built upon little moments, creating a voyage for listeners to take.  Constellations, which is a fantastically cohesive grouping of tunes, doesn’t seem to operate along those same lines at all.  Where you expect to find a rapid pace, or just a guitar that rolls you along, you find Balmorhea pulling back upon the reins.  Where they could increase volume, they instead choose to hide in the vastness of the night sky.

Perhaps this is what the band expected of their performance.  They wanted to dot the night sky with their own inspirations; they wanted to fill the void in our listening experience with their own light touches of instrumental genius.  If it is to be read as such, then Constellations is one of the most successful concept pieces you will find as of late.  It is a record that defines looking into the night sky with your telescope whilst putting musical notes inside your head.  Balmorhea have filled that black canvas in the night, or in our lives, with generous drops of light, and for that much we can be thankful.

Balmorhea @ Central Presbyterian Church (2/19)


Date 2/19/10
Location Central Presbyterian
Doors 8pm
Tickets $12 from Waterloo/EOE

A unique and interesting show opportunity comes to Central Presbyterian Church on Friday with a set by Western Vinyl locals Balmorhea.  To make the show even more interesting, Damien Jurado will be opening things up at 9pm.  Tickets for this one are limited and only available at Waterloo Records or End of an Ear.  Some tickets can be bought at the door if a sell out doesn’t happen prior to Friday night.  Here’s the band’s most recent single “Bowsprit” which appears on the band’s recent album hitting stores now, Constellations.


Download: Balmorhea – Bowsprit [MP3]

The Album Leaf – A Chorus of Storytellers

thealbumleafRating: ★★★☆☆

A Chorus of Storytellers is Jimmy LaValle’s third album for indie label Sub Pop, and at it’s finest moments, it proves that this is the most cohesive Album Leaf record to date.  While it maintains many of the electronic flourishes that existed on past works, the latest piece somehow comes together a little bit tighter, forming stronger collection of songs.

For me, it all starts with the title, and for that part, the cover art.  Artists of this ilk can rely upon these mediums to further their message.  Sure, all artists should do this, but it’s even more important with acts that remain instrumental.  And the title,  A Chorus of Storytellers, should really say it all.  While I’ve lambasted electronic music in the past, it is works such as this that strive to make a coherent story, to create a plot within their music.  Such is the story within this record, as illustrated on the cover.   It just begs you to create your own story of the man ashore while his boat drifts aimlessly away.

Of course, one thing that differentiates this album from purely electronic or post-rock music, if you wish to call it that, is the inclusion of songs which use lyrics.  “Falling From the Sun,” for example, is a pleasant enough tune, and you can easily follow as the melody rises and falls, especially in the vocal performance.  But, moments such as this make things to clear for the listener; this is something that detracts from the overall listening experience.  Lyrics, in this case, push a story upon you when you’d rather just float off into your own world.

You can take a song like “Within Dreams,” which in itself recalls the ability to drift off with your own thoughts.  Slowly, you can feel the song fall asleep on you, as if you too are going into that deep REM sleep.  Then you can hear the faint touches of string instruments, and you’re off an running in a dream of your own.  It is here where LaValle succeeds the most, as he allows you to immerse yourself in the song, and take the song wherever you want to go.  Happily, it’s not constructed of mere loops, and the national progression lends itself to the telling of tales.  “Until the Last” is another such song; it is along the lines of Balmorhea or even a less-dangerous version of Mogwai.

Up until the middle point of the album, the record is really strong.  It has its ups and downs, but it also adds enough diversity for you to be invested wholly into the album.  However, towards the end, there are a bit too many songs with vocals.  This isn’t a disaster by any means, as the songs are actually really good, “Almost There” in particular, but it does break up the flow of the album.  Still, A Chorus of Storytellers provides many listenable moments that prove Jimmy and The Album Leaf still can concoct magic out of their post-rcok potions.


Download: The Album Leaf – Falling From The Sun [MP3]

12/11 – Ola Podrida @ The Mohawk

olapdrida08It’s always an anxious evening when you are preparing to see one of your favorite bands for the first time.  Will they play your favorite song?  Will the show resemble the album precisely as you want it to sound?  Will you walk away with the same respect as the moment you entered?  Such were my thoughts as I spent Friday night preparing to see Ola Podrida at the Mohawk.  The bill included Martin from Brazos and local favorites Balmorhea.  Follow the jump for review and show pictures.

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Balmorhea @ Mohawk (12/11)


Date 12/11/09
Location mohawk
Doors 900pm
Tickets $8 from Frontgate

Mohawk is the place to be on Friday night if you’re a fan of some of the bands on our very own local label Western Vinyl.  Headliners Balmorhea will be sharing the stage with our new favorite band Ola Podrida.  Fellow Martin Crane of Brazos will be playing solo and opening things up.


Download: Balmorhea – Harm & Boon [MP3]

Top 10 Austin Albums Of 2009

1204top5coverWe thought about this long and hard, thinking over our favorite releases from bands located in Austin over the last year.  Blood was spilled, jabs were thrown, but overall, we feel like we got our hands around the best releases that we feel epitomized the Austin scene in 2009.  Don’t forget, we’re particular to our tastes, so while you may disagree, we reserve the right to stand by these ten acts and their albums from 09′.  Follow the jump for full list.
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Black Moth Super Rainbow @ Mohawk – 6/2

sevenbellsIt’s the beginning of a killer week of live music here in Austin, and the town is going to start it off with a great set from various noise-makers.  Black Moth Super Rainbow headline this show at Mohawk, closing with their electronic noise fusion. Local greats Balmorhea open this show, and they’re sure to be the quieter set of the evening. Don’t forget the middle band, School of Seven Bells, will bring their precious space-pop amidst the two acts, rounding out an evening of solid tunes.


Download: Black Moth Super Rainbow – Rollerdisco [MP3]

Balmorhea @ Stubbs (5/22)

balmorhea13One of our newest and favorite local discoveries of the last year, Balmorhea, are playing another sure to be great show at Stubbs on Friday night.  Pompeii and Alex Dupree and The Trapdoor band will take the stage as well to open things up.  Tickets for this show are $10  from Front Gate and doors open at 9:30.  Friday night is jammed packed full of goodness, so you’ve got some big decisions to make.


Download: Balmorhea – Harm & Boon [MP3]

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