Balmorhea – Constellations
Western Vinyl Records
“Where’s the music?”
That’s the thought when first listening to Constellations, the latest release from Austin, Texas band Balmorhea.
You turn up the volume and remind yourself that the first song is titled “To The Order of Night.”
Oh, maybe Balmorhea wants you to fall asleep to their music.
Constellations starts with only a few slowly struck piano notes and chords. Maybe whoever is hitting the keys is already as relaxed as you are becoming. This trickle of sound is soft and precise. It seems almost like it was improvised at the moment it was recorded. Sound caught and expressing a moment that seems more like a closer than an opener. The end of the day at the beginning. Sleepy, contented satisfaction before a hard days work.
Fifty seconds into the next track, “Bowsprit,” you start to feel more curious than relaxed. There are no vocals (except faint choral singing) and the instruments are almost solely acoustic, but you’re not falling asleep to Balmorhea any time soon.
Currently a five piece band, Balmorhea was formed in 2006 by musicians Rob Lowe and Michael Muller. They have been referred to as chamber pop, experimental folk, post rock, pre rock, contemporary, and, simply, new music. Listening to Constellations, the group is all of those things and none of them at the same time.
Dusted Magazine says, “Constellations is nominally a song cycle about cosmology and the place of the world in the vast universe.”
Such odd praise is unendorseable yet Balmorhea is somehow worthy. Released in February 2010 and combining pianos, guitar, banjo, cello, violins, drums, and assortment of other sounds, Constellations is Balmorhea’s fourth full length album. Just as you’re catching on, the band changes course. “Bowsprit” is melodic. “Palestrina” produces shivers. “Steerage and the Lamp” makes you feel like you are searching for your place in the vast universe. You’ll never find it, but it will be an exciting trip.
Constellations may at first seem like an album to unwind to, as it’s perfectly pleasant and low key. But it demands careful attention to be fully enjoyed, so more likely it will keep you awake. Play it loud enough and it will take you places. – (8/10)
Download Balmorhea’s “Bowspiriit.”