Available on: Tri Angle LP
Angelic, crystalline, precious, delicate – all words frequently used to describe See Birds, Balam Acab’s debut EP and the first release on Tri Angle Records.
A year on from See Birds‘ release, the talk of “witch house” that surrounded the label’s formation and Balam Acab’s early music seems a million miles away (and more than a little silly). In truth, there was little that was “witchy”, or even dark about See Birds – unlike Salem, oOoOO or White Ring, Balam Acab’s focus was on beauty rather than ugliness. Salem in particular have always seemed concerned with the darkest corners of everyday surroundings – the Michigan trio’s early singles sounded like the aural personifications of back alley abortions or suburban sex chambers – but Balam Acab’s music seems to focus on very different environments: foreign, often fantastical ones.
Those familiar with See Birds won’t be surprised by Balam Acab’s debut album; in fact, it’s about as logical a sequel as you could possibly envision. The aesthetic hasn’t changed, but it has been honed: Balam is a tighter, more technical producer now, and Wander / Wonder shines and glistens in ways that the more amateurish See Birds couldn’t express. There’s more going on in these tracks; more depth to them, and the space between their foundations (obscured drums and subtly distorted basslines) and highs (gentle vocals, shimmering melodies) has been expanded to add a real sense of mystery and space. Balam Acab is clearly obsessed with water – it’s sampled throughout this record, as it was See Birds – but he’s now reached the point where he can express what likely fascinates him about its form: that juxtaposition between appealing, refreshing beauty and the wonder of what lies within it.
At less than 37 minutes, it’s easy to let Wander / Wonder wash over you and mostly pass you by, and that’s in line with its aesthetic. But listen to it on headphones, and you’ll likely find yourself fascinated by both its immaculate beauty and its dedication to a very specific style – one which started off precious and delicate, but has now become something whole.