Balam Acab- Wander / Wonder
Record Label: Tri-Angle
Release Date: August 29, 2011
The music of Balam Acab is more. It is more than any sub-genre it gets crudely shoehorned into; we call it a simple square when it is a much more intriguing circle. It is more than what it first appears; what may initially seem like a collage of disjointed noises is actually a tapestry of exquisitely woven sounds. It is more than “intriguing” or “different;” it is a textured, organic beauty.
Wander / Wonder is a unique, pretty creation. Watery effects and samples ripple throughout, an effect that Alec Koone rightfully adores. The electronics have a similar texture, so clean as they blend seamlessly. The juxtaposing parts, the sharply contrasting bass bursts or crunches of gravel, serve the whole in a way that, in theory, sounds questionable; however, the stitching together is exquisitely done. The album is often akin to listening to the oddest nature sounds tape ever recorded. Its tranquility is enthralling.
The most critical effects are the odd, disembodied voices that float throughout like rickety flotsam, bobbing in and out with their high and low pitches. They are many and varied, with frequent appearances from a pitched-up, childlike lullaby crooner and a soft-spoken, classy woman’s voice risen from the past. Their voices are largely unintelligible, but coherent words slip through often enough to keep listeners’ ears from giving up their efforts at comprehension. These voices are often the success of each track, completing the eerie dreamscapes crafted by Koone. Indeed, the whole album is something of a beautiful piece to dwell upon in silence.
What is truly beautiful about this album is the fact that, though the same motifs and techniques continually reemerge throughout the album’s length, the music is always shifting and evolving. Rarely is Koone content to rest upon a melody for long. As a song seems to be settling in, a new effect is introduced, only to disappear just as quickly; ghostly voices drop in, only to be replaced by a different specter that will be similarly short-lived. Each song is a shifting, shimmering creation, maintaining intrigue throughout and preventing any from seeming over-long. Though they each have certain singular qualities, they blend together so well that it makes more sense to speak of album motifs than the exploits of a single song.
Wander / Wonder is a delicate, introspective album. See Birds was a good EP, but between that release and this one there has been clear evolution and growth. Koone’s melding of aquatic sounds, samples, and spectral voices is more layered and effective, with an emotion and depth even more striking than before. With this, he has easily transcended the descriptors and names that tethered the music of Balam Acab before, becoming much more than “just” one of the most buzz-worthy new producers and an early adopter of a short-lived, technology-fueled music trend. He has become an artist.