Review Summary: hush little baby, don't say a word
Listening to Wander/Wonder
is an experience akin to having awkward but passionate teenage sex while your parents are watching TV in another part of the house. It’s hushed, muffled by the sound of the movie the two of you just picked for the noise, yet intense, romantic even. This is no fuck
; you’re in love here, you believe. It’s understood that the moment’s fleeting, but this understanding is irrelevant. For this half hour, you have bliss. Wait till tomorrow for your pissy little brain to start questioning if any of it was actually real.
Alec Koone’s music under the Balam Acab moniker is pretty, which could be the slipperiest compliment I can lob it. Its sweetly spacious, electronic (witch-folk, apparently, how fun!), and also lightly organic, with its vocals alternatively morphing between a chipmunk squeak and a distantly booming baritone. This thing sits adorably yet totally unassumingly. No emotion to it beyond a dreamy bliss. Koone is all naiveté through electronic whispers, recalling the droning Disney ecstasy of Youtube demigod Pogo and broader pop-culture artists Star Slinger and Teen Daze. Wander/Wonder
proves that Balam Acab has the chops, so lacking in his contemporaries, to create a cohesive, consistent album, but its ambiguous, being sonically there but too emotionally insulated to leave a lasting impression.
The neat trick to Wander/Wonder
is that by being vague emotionally, it invites an objective appreciation for what’s beautiful, hence all that water merrily swashing away in the background. Hell yes it’s a gamble; Wander/Wonder
is very meditative and fit for a very meditative mood, but without the desire to hunker down and take it all in, it lacks the pacing to bridge the gap between its giants, “Welcome” and “Oh, Why.” The moan in “Welcome” starts Wander/Wonder
off at pitch black, beautiful but unsettlingly mesmerizing, yet what follows becomes increasingly bright and consequently slight, frustrating the album's atmosphere. It’s not until the character-drenched “Oh, Why” does the album deliver the emotional opposition to justify its often peculiar shift in tone.
Which is a shame; Koone has some dense shit
on here. “Oh, Why” exemplifies what he does well in a killer track that knifes through the vale shrouding this album’s face. Its bobbing bass underscores a warped whisper: ”miss you; where are you hiding?”
The sentiment is enough to ground the song in something tangible. Tracks like this offer Koone voice that projects his own as an artist, a crucial element to making his Balam Acab project so intriguing. He has some compelling sketches, and when they're fleshed out, they're amazing. He just relies on the major chords and reverb to speak for him, and these are indeed beautiful components, but on their own they don’t get to the heart as powerfully as when Koone isolates a lyric or emotional tone powerful enough to build around.
When listened to in full, Wander/Wonder
’s a consistent, dreamy experience. Pleasant, often phenomenal. And then afterwards, most of it is gone minus those times when it got real
. So what to do? Take it in at once. Enjoy what it can do; Revel in what it does. It doesn’t have to be love yet, but the potential’s there. Keep the good memories of what was often a good thing.
Also, you’re going to want to piss afterwards.