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.

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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3/13 Balmorhea at Ballet Austin

balmorhea09Releasing a CD is bound to be something special for those involved, so Austin band Balmorhea needed something special for the release of their new album, All is Wild, All is Silent.  The band chose to use the acoustics of Ballet Austin, offering the most intimate atmosphere possible to its fans.  Intimate settings can play out in various ways, as we will see shortly.  Follow the jump to read our full show review.

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Balmorhea – All is Wild, All is Silent

balmorRating: ★★★★☆

Balmorhea, pronounced Bal-moor-ay, is a band from here in Austin, Tx. consisting of principle songcrafters Rob Lowe and Michael Muller. Their sophmore effort entitled All Is Wild, All Is Silent is a beautiful album that touches upon influences from Ludovico Einaudi, Six Parts Seven, Claude Debussy, Ludwig Van Beethoven,  Gillian Welch, Max Richter, Arvo Part, and John Cage. The music is mostly instrumental except for wordless singing in peak areas of a song and sometimes in soft, delicate areas almost like that of gospel. Grazing with post-rock, classical, and folk music, Balmorhea reek of romantic music that can take you away to landscapes of the cold arctic to the lush forests of northern america. With this impressive imagery exhibited, it’s only a matter of time before soundtracking films is next on their resume.

Kicking off the album with “Settler,” one can see that this band will be welcomed with open arms to theaters and concert halls across the country in no time. The opening piano line repeats and nestles itself into your head, then with the cello soon chiming in, the drums begin with a nice riding tap of the cymbals and lift-off…

Though I love the arrangements of the longer epics, the shorter songs like “March 4, 1831” and “Elegy” really show off the acoustic guitar playing that digs under my skin and finds a home. These noteworthy melodies give goose-bumps and make me want to jump in the car and take Ranch Road 12 to Wimberly. Spring is on it’s way, and I’ve found my hill country, road- tripping soundtrack.

“Remembrance” is another stand-out with the haunting opening of a finger-picked guitar. A banjo lends a nice descending run which is soon accompanied by a wordless gospel-like chant and again the tension/release formula opens up when the drums begin. There’s never a dull moment, which can be found often in long instrumentals for me, but they keep it concise and to the point with evolving sections.

Balmorhea have a handful of shows for SXSW and then are off to Europe for April and May. Be sure to check-in here or their website for updates on their inevitable North American tour.

Balmorhea @ Ballet Austin (3/13)

balmorheaIn celebration of their new LP, All is Wild, All is Silent, local boys Balmorhea are  throwing a release party at Ballet Austin (map) on Friday night.  The Wooden Birds will provide your opening band entertainment during the nights events.  Doors open up at 9:30 and entrance will cost you only $8.  Free loaders take note, New Belgium Brewery & Progress Coffee are sponsoring and will provide complimentary beverages while supplies last!  Single track “Harm & Boon” from the band’s debut LP (out now on Western Vinyl) is below.


Download: Balmorhea – Harm & Boon [MP3]