Balmorhea: Candor / Clamor
Western Vinyl

So what's Balmorhea been up to since its last full-length, Constellations? Two new tracks on the group's latest single offer some clue as to what's been happening in the Balmorhea universe as well as suggesting possible new directions for the Austin-based quintet. Though it's a fleeting portrait, Candor / Clamor at the very least finds the band in robust form, full of ideas and eager to explore different directions.

An insistently repeating three-note marimba pattern gets “Candor” moving, until the music blossoms into a more emotionally pitched assemblage of interlocking marimbas, twanging electric guitars, and haunting female vocals (that the track brings Steve Reich to mind is less attributable to any derivativeness on Balmorhea's part and more indicative of how thoroughly Reich's style has become so indelibly a part of modern music-making's DNA). The cumulative effect is intoxicating but regrettably over too fast; the three minutes provided feel more like the opening paragraphs for a story that could have been developed further. The comparatively more propulsive (and aptly titled) “Clamor” bursts forth with an opening splash of drum bombast before an elegiac cello melody threads a dramatic path through an uptempo fire of percussive piano playing and hard-hitting drumming. Though their moods are diametrically opposed, the two tracks are alike in their brevity, and one wishes that the second had been allowed to carry on longer too.

The release comes in a seven-inch vinyl format along with a download card for the two tracks plus bonus remixes by the likes of Benoît Pioulard and Botany. Pioulard's “Clamor” makeover tames the wildness of the original and, though traces of its guitar parts remain, recasts it as a prototypical Benoît Pioulard track with hushed vocals and bells floating breezily o'ertop the tune's forceful percussive drive. Botany's “Candor” beefs up the subdued tone of the original by adding a plodding, bass-heavy thrust to the female vocal and in so doing turns the piece into a song-structured, at times funky shuffle that one conceivably could imagine being played by a forward-thinking radio programmer.

January 2011