If you’re a fan of BALMORHEA, you probably like them for their beautiful melancholic arrangements which were mostly inspired by the nature of the bands origin, Austin/Texas – that is also reflected by the bands name which actually is a small town in Texas. But let me say this right from the start: BALMORHEA’s latest album Stranger does things differently. They’re moving a bit away from their previous style that I would somewhat label as folk-hymns with a classical and sometimes ambient touch. But you don’t have to be shocked right now – on Stranger they don’t forget their roots, they broaden them. So we don’t experience a whole “new” BALMORHEA; it’s more of an extended approach of the style which they’re already known and loved for. On their 5th album they are using electric guitars more often and a few parts even include electronic sounds. And it really matches perfectly.
The opening track Days is a first indicator for the new direction. It starts with a guitar part that could be easily taken from a Hammock song but soon strings, piano and chants are joining and the song evolves a very positive atmosphere just to end with a very calm ambient passage.
The next song Masollan basically follows a similar structure but even better. They are building up melodies that are just so captivating and lovely that I have to say that this song truly has the potential to become one of my all time favourites! I don’t even know how often I listened to it in the last couple of days.
Fake Fealty is characterized by its pretty fast pace, the use of a highly distorted guitar and the dominant percussion. That’s a combination you probably haven’t heard in a lot of BALMORHEA’s previous songs.
The follow-up song Dived stands out with its orchestral strings, the heavenly chants and the driving drums. But sadly this track is somewhat short and I think it would’ve been nice if the uplifting climax lasted longer just because it is so impressive.
The next song that shows the variety and experimentation on BALMORHEA’s latest album is Artifact. It features banjos, piano, electric guitars and ultimately even distorted electronic sounds that make this track to the one that probably showcases the new direction the most direct.
But to make this clear: the old style isn’t gone completely. The later tracks remind a lot of their prior work. Shore is a very calm and soothing piece, while Pyrakantha – which was already released as a teaser – is a perfect balance between old and new. But if you digged their older stuff, then the last track Pilgrim will fill you with joy. This one totally fits the well-known sound of BALMORHEA. It starts quiet and slow with a repeating piano melody followed by strings and escalates to a lovely harmonic final which covers their complete instrumentation and brings the album to a beautiful end.
With Stranger BALMORHEA really tried something different and it totally payed off. So don’t hesitate and give it a listen, no matter if you’re a long time BALMORHEA fan or completely new to this band. If you’re up to folk, neo-classical or post-rock music then this piece will absolutely please you in the best way possible.
from Austin, Texas, USA