Balmorhea – Constellations

January 01, 1970


by no means an original observation to note that the music of Austin instrumental group Balmorhea bears
something of a resemblance to the sonic tapestries woven in the late ‘90s by
Rachel’s. However, if Rachel’s was the stately sound of classical music as
reimagined by ethereal-minded and complexity-loving hipsters, Balmorhea creates
music that is notably more compact and earthbound. On their fourth full-length
in three years, it becomes quite clear that the band is squarely focused on
finessing that approach, for although Constellations is easily identifiable as the work of the same band who debuted in 2007
with a stunning self-titled disc, this album shows that the group has – through
constant performance and studio work – come considerably closer to paring down
its sound to its essential elements.


like “On the Weight of Night” lean heavily upon lightly-plucked acoustic
guitars, gently-brushed drums, and barely-there organ lines to create their
dusky and melancholic moods, while other songs – most notably the epic,
churchbound “Palestrina,” which fuses a ghostly choir and distorted drones to
chilling effect – aim for a more spectral impact. Although much of Constellations is constructed out of
melody-free atmosphere – excepting, say, the oddly catchy banjo line of
“Bowspirit” or the “Silent Night”-biting familiarity of “Herons” – it’s far
from being abrasive or formless. In fact, the ease with which Balmorhea makes
these pieces both affective and memorable is a testament to an easy
compositional prowess that is only improving with time.

Standout Tracks: “Palestrina,”


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