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.