September 22nd 2017, will forever be remembered in the music community for two things: having so many great releases in one day and having so many great post rock releases in one day. Sporting albums from This Patch of Sky, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, RANGES and many, many more, this last Friday was an incredible day for post rock fans. However, the amount of releases can also be a hindrance, burying otherwise worthy music under its weight. Some albums will be lost; there is no stopping that. But there’s one album I simply couldn’t let float by without my giving it my attention, without doing what I could to make sure as many people as possible heard it. I’m talking about Balmorhea‘s Clear Language, a touching and ephemeral release blending post rock, electronica and drone.
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I haven’t been a fan of the band’s for long; in fact, it was only in the leadup to this last Friday that Trent Bos, one of blog’s dearest friends, recommended I listen to them. Every day before my first listen was a wasted one; Clear Language is everything I love about the current wave of post rock. It’s intimate and personal, communicating with the listener on a level plain rather than a crescendo-oriented plateau. Whether using “real” piano on the opening, self titled track, or more synthesized instruments on “Sky Could Undress”, it’s immediate follow up, Balmorhea’s tones are always not only rich but also small and restrained, giving them the power of the coiled spring.
I immediately fell in love with these two expansive, hopeful tracks. This tight-knit relationship which Balmorhea creates with the listener is carried on through the album, even when things get weirder. The aptly named “Ecco” for example, while relying on a drone influences to create its static filled chambers, still contains a basic movement of notes that anchors the listener inside its cavernous moments. So too “Slow Stone” before it, from a different direction, in introducing its slow and contemplative brass instruments that eventually lead into a blastbeat (yes) backed outro that is all ravishing, abrasive glory. Other bands would simply lay these ideas at the feet of the listener and walk away but Balmorhea, something in their approach to composition maybe, hold your hand every step of the way and smile at you gently, leading you into their musical ideas and spaces.
All of this, coupled with an overall penchant for simply great sounds and a wealth of experience from more than a decade of operation, makes Clear Language one of the best albums I’ve heard all year. It reminds us of the power in small things, of the hidden notes in between the grandiose statements, of the little places in our heart that open when truly great music comes into them. It’s a record I hope to listen to many times in the next few months, in an effort to get to know it better. Join me, will you?
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