Review Summary: This duo’s sobriquet is drawn from a similarly named town in Texas. I’ve personally never been to Texas, but after hearing this album I already feel intimately connected with [Bal-mor-ay].
This acoustic duo is pretty special. Balmorhea blend a classical sound with acoustic guitars, making for gorgeous music. Pianos crescendo to magnificent heights, and acoustic guitar is played so prettily it transports you places you never thought possible. Balmorhea’s self-titled debut is a solid forty-five minutes of the aforementioned beautiful music.
“Attesa” is the opener, and also one of my favorite tracks. A single grand piano performing alone, it feels like so much more. Although the tonality of the piano is sloppy and far from perfect, what the pianist is playing and how he plays it is all that matters; besides, it’s obviously intended, due to the perfect production on the rest of the record. “Dream of Thaw” is another amazing piece. Acoustic guitar is the sole instrument, but it creates a wave of sound, cascading through the listener. Piano returns on “In the Rowans”, accompanied, oddly enough, by typewriter. This piece stands out to me. It begins rather calmly, but half-way through it becomes extremely intense, without the addition of any other voices. What is amazing about the group is how they are able to utilize limited environments, like the use of only one or maybe two voices accompanied by a non-instrument, and rather then it sounding weak or too minimal, it’s as though a symphony orchestra is playing, giving you all they’ve got.
“If You Only Knew the Rain” is probably my favorite track. Beginning with purely unaccompanied piano, it slowly builds upon a simple melody, gaining momentum through dynamic swells and added harmonies. It eventually swells to an immensely passionate bridge featuring woodwinds beside piano. The closer, “We Will Rebuild With Smooth Stones” is as encouraging as the title sounds. The perfect closer to the surprisingly intense album, it relaxingly uplifts the listener with its pretty acoustic melodies.
My fear when first listening to this album was that it was going to grow boring. Parts of songs lack action, and I was afraid it would continue throughout and overshadow the shining moments. Luckily, however, my fear was unfounded; rather then being used as filler, those moments stand alone and lead to the more aggressive or interesting parts. Balmorhea is well worth a listen if you are a fan of post-rock or acoustic music, and not turned off by an absence of vocals.