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Balmorhea Makes Me Feel Small, Uncultured, and Stupid and I Love Them For It

February 6, 2010
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For those of you that don’t already know, I’m an idiot.  A complete, brazen, unchallenged buffoon.  I couldn’t feel more inadequate as a music writer than I feel right at this moment and I recommend that you should probably just forego my near-incoherent ramblings and just keep to reading Pitchfork to get your indie rock jones on.  If it wouldn’t result in swift and certain death, I’d turn in my Brown Tweed membership card right here and leave your Wednesdays and Saturdays in much more capable hands.

The source of my consternation is my recent discovery of post-rock band Balmorhea.  Thanks to the boys over at the always-excellent Citizen Dick, I picked up the latest album from this Austin, Texas group, called All Is Wild, All Is Silent last week.  It took me a while to get around to listening to it, but about 15 seconds into the opening song “Settler”, I realized how little I actually knew about music.  The song was quite literally breathtaking.  I beg you, if you didn’t click the link and listen to the song, do so now and I promise you’ll find yourself moved and uplifted.

I’m not going to do an album review here, I don’t think I could do any better than François Couture did over at Allmusic.com.  But let me say that had I heard this album back in early 2009 when it was released it would easily have been one of my top albums of the year.  Based on what I’ve heard on All Is Wild, All Is Silent, Balmorhea is an instrumental band complete with banjo, piano, cello, violin, and various other instruments.  Even the vocals on this album serve as instrumentation as you are unable to decipher words from what is sung.

The songs vary in length, but all share a melodic pop sensibility.  This isn’t postmodern atonal ear garbage–you can hum and sing along to these songs and you will find yourself swaying to the strong internal rhythms.  I don’t know much about the band, but I’d be surprised if George Winston weren’t a strong influence as I hear much of his piano and arrangement style in some of the songs. 

Word on the street is that All Is Wild, All Is Silent is something of a departure from previous Balmorhea albums, and if this is truly the case I’m ecstatic with the band’s decision to branch out.  Like Sigur Ros and The Six Parts Seven, they prove that popular rock and orchestral music can share many commonalities without being pretentious and uptight.  I challenge anyone who loves music to listen to this album without feeling uplifted and amazed.

So here I sit, kicking myself that I didn’t discover this band earlier and feeling completely inadequate to describe their sound adequately.  The best I can say is just go and listen to them.  You can stream all of All Is Wild, All Is Silent at Last.fm if you want to take a test drive before buying.  The band will also release their new album, Constellations, on February 23 on Western Vinyl records.  As for me, I’m heading back into my cave to see what other great music I can completely strike out on this year.

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