All Is Wild, All Is Silent

In my estimation, Balmorhea are named after Balmorhea, TX (population: 500) or the town’s adjacent lake. Both capture the band’s essence: the minute town suggesting the band’s intimacy, and the lake conveying its natural purity. Almost entirely instrumental, Balmorhea’s third release All Is Wild, All Is Silent continues where its predecessors left off. However, this record maintains an incredible closeness to the listener. Its melodies are patient and calm and its delivery exact and effective. Balmorhea’s main members, Rob Lowe and Michael Muller, harness the expertise of four accomplished musicians to produce an extremely precise sound. Comparisons to a more subtle Sigur Ros are apt indeed; but as are comparisons to Ludvig van Beethoven and John Cage. Are their roots in classical, rock, or experimental? A case could be made for all.

I could spend 500 words describing the dynamics, textures and moods of All Is Silent, All Is Wild, but few bands demand the listener’s undivided attention like Balmorhea. Thus, I encourage you not to browse their MySpace impatiently, but to sit alone with headphones on and allow “November 1, 1832” to isolate and empower you. The majority of All Is Wild achieves that sort of visceral reaction. The album is predicated upon elegant string arrangements, articulated silences and sustained tones. Although often intense, there can be a light-hearted ease to All Is Silent, opener “Settler” is relatively fast-paced until it slows to what feels like an ending; then suddenly, almost in a display of playfulness or flippancy, the song erupts into a synchronized hand-clap routine. “Harm and Boon” ignores traditional song structure as new melodies continuously emerge seemingly out of nowhere. “Elegy” drifts serenely as its finger-picking guitars harmonize with one another.

All Is Wild confirms Balmorhea are masters of their music terrain. I suppose it could be described as cinematic, in the sense that we are to interpret the songs as we choose. For example, “March 4, 1831” and “November 1, 1832” appear to be arbitrary dates that don’t seem to relate a specific historical event (at least, not that I could find after a Google search). The latter is an extremely accomplished composition -- its choral voices sing unintelligibly yet with great fervor. At just under 42 minutes, All Is Wild reveals itself with admirable patience; it is accessible, it projects musical beauty with seamless ease, and harbors great meaning so long as you allow it.

Western Vinyl

All Is Wild, All Is Silent