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Clear LanguageWhen Rob Lowe and Michael Muller founded Balmorhea in 2006, their goals and expectations were modest, as they created music to share with friends and family,and slowly developed a following in their hometown of Austin and beyond. They Couldn't have anticipated that their music would take them on multiple tours of the US and Europe, and even to Asia. Nor did they expect the praise their work would receive from such well-respected publications as Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic among myriad others, and that their work would become quietly ubiquitous, doing the emotional heavy-lifting for national TV commercials,films, radio and cable programs, and countless documentaries.
Lowe and Muller had developed a wordless language with a seemingly limitless potential to stir the listener's soul. Over the course of 5 full-length albums and a 7EP, the duo pushed their work to its outer bounds, concluding the first chapter of their career with their maximalist, genre-leaping full-length Stranger (2012). Now Five years later they return with their most fully realized album to-date, Clear Language, an album which almost never happened.
Almost a decade on the road, near-constant musical output, and shifting creative priorities caused Lowe and Muller, to soberly assess the band's future. What, in the form of Balmorhea, was there left to say? And did they have the energy to say it? To answer that question the duo decamped to their east Austin studio, where they worked simply and with restraint, letting intuition guide them as they molded 30-plus raw ideas into the 10 elegant, spacious gestures that comprise Clear Language.
Co-produced and engineered by David Boyle in Austin's Church House Studios,Clear Language finds the duo returning to the simplicity of their roots. They eschewed complexity for complexity's sake, allowing a watery, sand-hued mood to settle over their use of analog synthesizers, piano, vibraphone, electric and bass guitar, violin, viola, field recordings, and, for the first time in the band's history,trumpet, performed by Tedeschi Trucks' Ephraim Owens. A relaxed, clear-eyed sense of reflection flows gracefully through the album as these two old friends transmit unfettered meaning through simple sonic gestures that resonate with the cosmos as much as they echo the pulse of a human heart. In a culture dominated by the loudest, ostentatious voices, Lowe and Muller continue to prove the power and importance of restraint and minimalism.1. Clear Language
2. Sky Could Undress
4. Slow Stone
6. Behind The World
7. Waiting Itself
9. All Flowers
10. First Light$20.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
StrangerOn Stranger Balmorhea continues the cosmic dialog they began with their eponymous debut in 2007. Though the spirit of Texas' early inhabitants and the weight of the night sky inspired previous albums All is Wild, All is Silent (2009) and Constellations (2010), Stranger shifts the focus from the celestial to the terrestrial, or more accurately, it begins to explore the celestial resonance in all things terrestrial.
Balmorhea's music has always been guided by the experience of living in Texas, but with Stranger the band moves beyond contemplative reverence for the land and the history of their home state. The most forward-leaning of their catalog, Stranger presents worlds of tenderness, aggression, estrangement, and freedom using an expanded sonic palette including guitar loops, vibes, synthesizers, ukulele, and steel pan drums. In addition to these new sounds, electric guitars and percussion take the stage once occupied by piano and acoustic guitars.
Stranger explores the kinetic rhythms that dictate our day-to-day lives, fascinated by the wanderlust that drove the itinerant hearts of our earliest settlers and that continues to pulse in the kids roaming Texas' suburban sprawl. Unsettled, but patient, these songs embrace everyday sensuality, youthful discovery, and nomadic reverie awe-struck by the divine energy that permeates all of our earthly fauna and flora.
Refined over many months, and in one case years, the band took care to ensure every note on Stranger feels essential, vivid, and confident. During the writing process, Rob Lowe was living in Alpine, Texas, just down the road from Marfa, and Michael Muller had relocated to Brooklyn. Absorbing their new environments, and filtering them through uniquely Texan lenses, the band has created an album that stands defiantly alone in the sea of modern independent music. Opening with the electric guitar loops, synths, and steel drums of Days, the band invites us to move forward with them as they explore without pretense or expectation. Pilgrim provides the perfect ending, blurring alpha and omega...a concluding gesture taking us back to our beginnings.1. Days
3. Fake Fealty
10. Pilgrim$21.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
Life In The MidwaterOften when you're in your mid-20's heavy realities start to settle in. Relationships that seemed like they'd last forever lose their spark, your aspirations and self-perception shift, you marvel at friends your age getting married and having babies, and you feel powerless and small, realizing that people you've known and loved for a lifetime can suddenly die. It's a serious psychological shakeup, made even more difficult if your frontal cortex hasn't fully matured yet. It's a beast, a mountain, a wall, or as in Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey, a mysterious obelisk that pushes you to evolve like it or not. For better or worse, parts of us die, new parts come to life, and if we're lucky we emerge smarter, stronger, and more resilient. It's no surprise that for ages we've felt a deep sense of connection with music, art, and films inspired by this metamorphosis. Aisha Burns' Life in the Midwater provides a snapshot of the rough stuff, but with a delicate sensitivity and wisdom beyond her years.
Burns' contributions as the violinist and occasional vocalist for the Austin band Balmorhea belie a nuanced songwriting prowess, and a dynamic and powerful voice. The album's title references a deep dark layer of the ocean that flows far below the surface, and just above what we call the deeps sea. Bioluminescent jellyfish often inhabit this layer of the ocean, emitting mysterious flashes of light despite the risk of exposing themselves to potential predators. Similarly Aisha's songs are dreamlike beacons in the inky abyss1. Sold
7. Mine to Bear
9. Nothing$17.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
...an exemplary experiment in restraint, lush with
a slow-burning, wordless, and ambient Americana
that manages to captivate while avoiding the
histrionics of its post-rock forebears.
- THE NEW YORKER
...they create minimalist, cinematic music that
combines modern, experimental acoustic sounds
with classical qualities.
This - not steak finger baskets or soft-serve ice
cream - is what you should like about Texas.
- The ONION / A.V. CLUB
Balmorhea flashes brilliance only to highlight a
slow-burning constancy that's at the core of one
of the year's early slow wonders.
For the past eight years the duo of Rob Lowe and Michael Muller have nurtured and refined
their creative partnership as the core members of the band Balmorhea. Though their first
album on Western Vinyl Rivers Arms (2008) garnered some remarkable press, their
self-titled debut, recorded in 2006 and released in 2007 best captures the duo's unique
magic as it first blossomed. With no label, distributor, manager, publicist, or booking agent
the duo quietly self-released their first recordings and started playing live shows. Now,
seven years later Western Vinyl is honored to have the opportunity reissue the band's
self-titled album, and make it available on vinyl for the first time ever.
In preparation for this special reissue, the audio was lovingly remastered, drawing out
even more of the nuances magnifying the sounds of Muller and Lowe's fingers on the
instruments, and teasing out the textures that set these recordings apart from the rest of
their catalog. Simple and sincere, these songs and ambient sounds the duo captured in
these recordings are strangely inviting. Throughout the album the distant sounds of Texas
grackles, the warm summer rain, the steady rhythm of crickets chirping, and creaking
wooden stools, all seeping in to cradle the notes in a restrained din of primordial wonder.
It's hard to imagine Western Vinyl without Balmorhea. After our fateful meeting in 2007,
we forged a deep and lasting relationship we're all grateful for. We met at an Austin performance on the eve of their first US tour in support of their recently self-released debut
album. Their show that night was one of the most powerful performances I'd ever seen,
and as I looked around the room, it was apparent that I wasn't alone. With the help of a
cellist the group briefly transformed the dingy lounge into a vibrant pulsing cell. I had
experienced deeply moving shows before, but the ecstatic emotions they conjured were
new to me. Calling it electrifying, might sound clichÉ, but as the hair on my arms and legs
stood at attention, my eyes squinted a bit with concentration, and my head cocked to the
right, the electricity that passed over me felt very real. Over the next few years I had the
pleasure of experiencing dozens of Balmorhea shows, each with a slightly different story
to tell. - Brian Sampson, Western Vinyl1. Attesa
2. Baleen Morning
3. Dream of Thaw
4. In The Rowans
5. A Circumnavigation
6. En Route
7. If You Only Knew The Rain
8. And I Hear The Soft Rustling...
9. We Will Rebuild With Smooth Stones$16.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now