BALMORHEA, the Texan duo of Rob Lowe and Michael A. Muller, whose particular take on the modern compositional form nods to the American West, have signed to Deutsche Grammophon for their seventh album, The Wind, which record will be out at the end of April.
That The Wind should be released by Deutsche Grammophon, which of course released Max Richter’s Sleep, thus admitting the new classical to the hallowed canon of the label universally regarded as industry standard in the field, is implicitly an accolade.
They ply an evocative style in which every note has its place, eschewing maximalism, but also very much more concerned with fluvial melody than the cyclical repetition and drone that minimalism often espouses. We can indeed use terms like pastoral and delicate, nuanced and layered; and we’d be right to, since they are pretty much masters of this, honing a craft that springs from their shared practise, and also bringing in various other musicians as the palette demands.
You can hear the first track they’ve unveiled from that forthcoming work here today: “The Myth”.
It rings with intimate six strings, building to a concert of horns that puts me in mind of Mogwai, of all people, circa Stanley Kubrick. It’s the amazing voice of Lisa Morgenstern, the bravest, truest vocalist working in leftfield music today, who appears towards the end, both so very human and so otherworldly all at once.
The album comprises a dozen tracks, inspired by meditations on the natural world and its fragility, an ancient tale of a saint who carried the wind to an airless French valley, and thoughts of climate activist Greta Thunberg crossing the Atlantic on the catamaran La Vagabonde.
It also marks a return to Balmorhea’s original set-up; and charts a journey through a soundscape touched by echoes of prayer flags flapping in a Himalayan breeze, an old harmonium, a pipe organ, wind chimes, a trio of double basses, all informing the main thrust of guitar and piano instrumental journeying.
The genesis of The Wind comes from ideas forged at at the Lowe family house by the River Llano, about two hours from Austin.
“The Wind was a product of retreat,” adds Rob. “It was about leaving the city to work in a remote location and having access only to what we could create together.
“I think that necessitated the stripped-back nature of the music we made, which is ultimately what we wanted.”
Balmorhea draw a line back in the tradition to the much-missed Louisville, KY outfit Rachel’s, who opted to take an idea and use whichever instrumental mix they found brought out the best of what they wished to convey.
We’ve lived with and loved The Wind for a short while – look out for our review round about April 26th; we’ve noted that it ” … roams freely and with precision across a spectrum from formal classical through a more pastoral take on the form and all the way out to ambient experimentalism, spoken word, found sound, with a unity and cohesion.
“It’s just a lovely, thoughtful record; complex in its simplicity.”
Balmorhea’s The Wind will be released by Deutsche Grammophon digitally, on CD and 2xLP on April 9th; you can place an order for your copy direct with the band, over at Deutsche Grammophon, or from your neighbourhood record store.