Recommended Listening: Balmorhea - The Wind
I've recently developed this annoying habit related to my music consumption. Nowadays when I sit with a new album for the first time, I cannot help but ask myself, "Do I wanna write about this one?" The question, undoubtedly a byproduct of this DC endeavor, reframes my listening experience, and I don't think in a positive way. So I'm trying to kick it.
But it's a work in progress.
Because when I heard Balmorhea's The Wind on Saturday, this question crept up in my mind, despite my best efforts. By the time track four, Landlessness, was nearing completion the answer was "maybe." Two songs later, when the final note of The Myth faded, the answer was "probably." And by the time The Crush rolled through, it was no longer a question at all. So I hope that both Rob Lowe and Michael A Muller will forgive my critical lens, and if either of you are reading this: know that I've gone back to listen to your beautiful album a few times now, just to appreciate the music for what it is.
The Wind feels intensely cinematic. There are spare moments, certainly, but also a number of melancholy dips followed by emotional crescendos. It's difficult to know exactly the story that Balmorhea is trying to tell through these twelve mostly-instrumental tracks, but since the album opens with dawn and closes with night fall, perhaps they are seeking to summarize a the arc of day, or even a lifetime. Balmorhea, the town, is located in Texas - the state in which the band originated. Oklahoma is just due north, and while you won't find Windrixville on a map, you can imagine a couple of fugitive teens sitting on a church stoop, analyzing a classic Robert Frost poem centered around a similar day/life metaphor
Rob Lowe and Michael A Muller have been mentioned already, but Balmorhea is more than just a duo, and The Wind features some key contributors. Lili Cuzor bookends the album with spoken work. DC favorite, Clarice Jensen, plays cello on nearly half the tracks. Lisa Morgenstern adds operatic flair to two songs near the middle. And so many other players come and go throughout The Wind, making it a truly collaborative effort. Guests give the duo's music great variation and texture, and whether a given track's base is rooted in guitar or piano, these additions take the sound in exciting directions.
I mentioned a few favorite tracks in the opening paragraph, but to close, I've got to say that two of the album's shortest cuts (Evening and Nos) are also among its most beautiful. They are simple piano melodies and completely guestless, but just stunning. And while they might not be as grand as The Myth or The Crush, they should not go unnoticed. Balmorhea's The Wind is out everywhere now, and you can find it for steaming and purchase here. Listen to a track below (linked using Spotify this time). And then, since you likely aren't going to write about the album immediately after hearing it, enjoy The Wind in its entirety your first time through.