Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
You can look anywhere and everywhere in the Balmorhea biography and the same goes for any band member contribution/instrumentation listings. You are not going to find a mention of any of the five members claiming their roles in the vocal department. It's as if the brief interludes that we hear in their songs, where the spell of sole instrumental playing is broken, are highly suspect, as in the possibility that they are the works of other forces stepping invisibly up to the running microphones in the room and giving their harmonies or condolences in the case of these often sad and lonely songs. The brief instances when human voices make their appearance, it's a form of communion, of bridging the feelings coming from the violin, the piano, the guitars, the cello with those of the spirits. (And these human voices may not be human at all. We're willing to make that kind of wild claim. They likely are, but who knows. There are many instances of heavy exhalations on their album recordings - as well as movement sounds that could just be proof of the shadows at work). All of those instruments seem to be communicating with countless things and beings that aren't existing in that very room at the moment, but all combined, the song is a lure for those phantoms and souls long-gone to crash silently through the roof or sneak through the walls without disturbing a brick. And they all sit in the pews or on the wooden floors - trying not to make any sounds as they step, hitting the softer boards and the dried out seating troughs. They are there to listen, to be taken aback by this Austin, Texas, band as it performs its dramatically-charged monuments to the spaces that we find ourselves in when we've closed our eyes, but not necessarily because we're tired. We're just thinking. We're just praying or something like praying. We're just hurting inside. We're just tired and worn. We've shut our eyes to the brightness and to the existence of anything else possibly being out there. If we find the right places to do this in, we're safe and we're free of the entanglements and the worries that have us needing to perform such an act in the first place. These are drifting and fluid movements of air and sensation, floating like sighs and curling around us like vines. And they seem to - in their recruitment of these spirits, real or imagined - these songs found on last year's "All Is Wild, All Is Silent," and the group's latest, "Constellations," are able to fill us with big gusts of swelling and swallowing, of heaving and rolling. Balmorhea is expert as manipulating these trickles of fills, these small additions and these measured steps that - when considered all as one in one piece of music - are powerful and of a real reaction that could just be what brings about these mysterious outbursts of non-language that are found rather frequently on these albums. They are hums and they are tender exclamations that could just be spontaneous particles - unknown and unplanned. They are the effects of getting sucked into these sweeping and beautiful arrangements and not knowing what you're going to do, or what might leave your throat as something that wants to be a part of the music. So they all just let loose - these ghosts, these spirits, these players - and their responses are suddenly decorative and charmingly appropriate.
Balmorhea Official Site
Western Vinyl Records