When Rob Lowe and Michael Muller founded Balmorhea in 2006, their goals and expectations were modest, as they created music to share with friends and family, and slowly developed a following in their hometown of Austin and beyond. They couldn't have anticipated that their music would take them on multiple tours of the US and Europe, and even to Asia. Nor did they expect the praise their work would receive from such well-respected publications as Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic among myriad others, and that their work would become quietly ubiquitous, doing the emotional heavy-lifting for national TV commercials, films, radio and cable programs, and countless documentaries.
Lowe and Muller had developed a wordless language with a seemingly limitless potential to stir the listener's soul. Over the course of 5 full-length albums and a 7” EP, the duo pushed their work to its outer bounds, concluding the first chapter of their career with their maximalist, genre-leaping full-length Stranger (2012). Now five years later they return with their most fully realized album to-date, Clear Language.
Almost a decade on the road, near-constant musical output, and shifting creative priorities caused Lowe and Muller, to soberly assess the band’s future. What, in the form of Balmorhea, was there left to say? And did they have the energy to say it? To answer that question the duo decamped to their east Austin studio, where they worked simply and with restraint, letting intuition guide them as they molded 30-plus raw ideas into the 10 elegant, spacious gestures that comprise Clear Language.
Co-produced and engineered by David Boyle in Austin’s Church House Studios, Clear Language finds the duo returning to the simplicity of their roots. They eschewed complexity for complexity’s sake, allowing a watery, sand-hued mood to settle over their use of analog synthesizers, piano, vibraphone, electric and bass guitar, violin, viola, field recordings, and, for the first time in the band’s history, trumpet, performed by Tedeschi Trucks' Ephraim Owens. A relaxed, clear-eyed sense of reflection flows gracefully through the album as these two old friends transmit unfettered meaning through simple sonic gestures that resonate with the cosmos as much as they echo the pulse of a human heart. In a culture dominated by the loudest, ostentatious voices, Lowe and Muller continue to prove the power and importance of restraint and minimalism.
This fall, in cities across the U.S. and Europe, Balmorhea will bring Clear Language to life with a full band of multi-instrumentalists, and the ensemble will be enshrouded in a light/video projection that’s being developed to mirror the emotional tone of Clear Language. Audiences can also expect to hear classic works from All is Wild, All is Silent, Stranger, Constellations — the spareness of which invites comparisons to Clear Language — and more from Balmorhea’s dense catalog, dating back to 2006
The band traces an infinite, gorgeous desert horizon with its songs, filling in the spaces with the peaks of co-leader Rob Lowe's piano, the low rumble of cellos, and the inevitable realization of man's insignificance in the face of nature. This—not steak finger baskets or soft-serve ice cream—is what you should like about Texas.
Balmorhea flashes brilliance only to highlight a slow-burning constancy that's at the core of one of the year's early slow wonders.
Austin chamber-gloomsters cast a skeletal shadow over the reverent, still audience...
Constellations is an album drastically and magnificently out-of-step with the modern world... a work of exquisite beauty, coming from a group that grows by leaps and bounds with every release.
etched out in plaintive ivory and sumptuous string swells, while a deftly plucked banjo anchors the prevailing air of authenticity to the sturdy foundations of tradition... this work will reveal its shimmering tributaries that break from the main body of water like precious secrets, stretching for the sky.
Their songs are what happens when a classical background meets an experimental spirit, making a type of music that many of us find inaccessible suddenly evocative and engaging.
...they create minimalist, cinematic music that combines modern, experimental acoustic sounds with classical qualities.
Balmorhea's appeal lies in its emotional malleability, the way the music seems to shift in mood and meaning depending on the circumstances in which it's heard.