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Balmorhea: All is Wild, All is Silent, All is Full of Expectation

img  Tobias

When „All is Wild, All is Silent“ eventually hits shops on 10th March, it will most likely herald a new chapter in the history of the band. Even though Lowe and Muller describe the rise of Balmorhea as a „slow and steady progression“, there can be no denying that international awareness of what they are doing has sharply increased since they self-released their eponymous debut two years ago. Only recently, they were invited to follow in the footsteps of artists like Bill Callahan, Jose Gonzalez, Do Make Say Think and Shearwater and record songs at a Retread Session at Austin's Blanton Museum of Art, the studio versions of which will be included on the album. And even though their regular gigs in town are still mainly events for their friends to gather and hang out while enjoying some great music, their recent tour-ep quickly sold out its limited print run. Which, of course, hasn't turned them into milionaires overnight: „We are still virtually unknown and don't expect anything by any means, but there seems to be a few more flickers and glimmers on new horizons here and there“, they sum up their feelings.

In any case, the association with Western Vinyl has been a benefitial one. Their business relationship grew organically from an artistic friendship, when Balmorhea invited local musician Bexar Bexar to join them for a show – only to discover later on that he was running a respected record company and happened to love their sound. Second full-length „Rivers Arms“ subsequently scored highest marks all across the board and earned them distinctions as a band with a unique sound and an approach organically embedding traditional instruments like the Banjo into acoustic arrangements with subtle hints at electronics and Sound Art: „Banjos and Acoustic Guitars have a very local aesthetic. They create a sense of place that an electronic instrument cannot, perhaps that is their charm. We have used a strange 4-stringed Guitar that belongs to Bexar Bexar for a couple new songs - yet to be recorded - and the sound is just so unique, warm and makes you feel taken away from the present-tense. It is hard to explain in words.“

This sensation of being lost for words is characteristic for a lot of the material on „All is Wild, All is Silent“. „Remembrance“, for example, one of the pieces taped at the Retread sessions, essentially consists of nothing but a cycle of four downwards-spiralling chords, which are gradually and minimally ornamented by plaintive Banjo licks and vocals. And yet, within the space of just five and a half minutes, Lowe and Muller create a heartbreaking maelstrom which explodes into a supernova of desolation mid-way before lapsing back into silent sorrow and acceptance. It is one of the most obvious stand-out tracks of the record, even though the band are certainly not catering exclusively to the Autumnal-Melancholia-Club, treating each new album as a world of its own: „We are particularly trying not to perfect one idea“, they stress, „It is tiring to hear bands put out the same album over and over again. We hope to constantly grow and make music around different ideas and chapters in our lives that is truly reflective but held loosely in the same vein as our other material.“

What this translates to in practise is that their audience will be able to recognise the fingerprints of Balmorhea all over the new material, but that the listening experience will be a completely different one. Subtely trading in the classical influences of their two previous efforts for Rock- and Folk-influences, they have created a more epic feel and a work bordering on the conceptual and thematic. Undoubtedly, this discreet change of direction was influenced by the decision to extend the line-up of the group, turning it into a six-piece both on stage and in the studio. Even though they are extremely happy with the current formation, including Aisha Burns (Violin), Travis Chapman (Upright Bass), Jesy Fortino (Vocals), Nicole Kern (Cello) and Mike Bell (Drums), and can still discern a lot of potential for it, the move to work with a larger ensemble is part of a general plan of working with different guest instrumentalists for future projects.

Right now, of course, it is far too early to speculate about what may come. „All is Wild, All is Silent“ is just around the corner and promises to make fans of Balmorhea just as content as the band itself.

Balmorhea will embark on their first tour through Europe and the UK in April and May in support of "All is Wild, All is Silent". Details can be found by following this link.

Image by Megan Carney.

Homepage: Balmorhea
Homepage: Western Vinyl Records

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