11 July 2010

Balmorhea - river arms (2008, Western Vinyl)

Taking their name from a Texan oasis and state park, Balmorhea is a duo from Austin. Rob Lowe and Michael Muller, the main artisans, are working in collaboration with two cellist, one violinist and a bassist on their second album, “River Arms”.

I like this album like I enjoy early records by Rachels or Aerial M, Roger Eno's solo discography and Bexar Bexar. Sometimes beautiful, “River Arms” is also often somewhat inoffensive. They use the “acoustic” and “classical” labels for their music, also with the word “experimental”' I would instead replace with a better adapted “post-rock” tag.

Fourteen instrumental, almost an hour, but I only like a few of them. I am not seduced by the album and not at all convinced by their originality. At best, it is very pleasant, without bringing anything new. “San Solomon”, the first and last track of this album is naïve, innocent and graceful but without strong emotions and a presence. The use of environmental field recordings seems mostly free and rarely meaningful.

It's like most of the time they have nothing to say, only painting tapestries, composing new age, relaxing environment. Fortunately a few tracks show some more personal feelings, not turned into something anonymous. The acoustic guitar on “The Summer” are really moving with a beautiful layer of stings behind, not so far from the first Aerial M album. “Baleen Morning” makes me want to cry, I easily imagine this music as the perfect soundtrack for a video about the beauty and sad decline of blue whales. “Process” is extremely beautiful, melancholic, reflective, blurry and emotional, with electric guitar and layers of manipulated sounds. “Divisadero” is nicely intimate and moving, like walking in the morning under sweet spring rain.

“River Arms” offers a few good tracks and a lot of average ones but always pleasant and (too) beautiful.

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