The massive over saturation of data in today’s society is daunting. Present technology affords us the luxury of having any piece of knowledge, any semblance of history and antiquity be it the military strategy of the Phoenicians or the import and exportation of domesticated horse semen. This ease of acquisition has changed the way we live, developed a dissonance simply by being over informed, and helped develop new forms of expression to the ones who take advantage of its virtues. Balam Acab is a sterling example of the latter aspect of the phenomena.
Alec Koone, the plainclothes moniker of Balam Acab, is notable for a few reasons. He’s the baby face of TRI▼ANGLE Records (a label which should be commended for both its austerity and its artists’ ability to both shudder your spine and lovingly massage your ears with their work), just a spry 20 years old, yet his keen and often ethereal skill with reworking samples render his age irrelevant. As his previous effort, the sumptuous See Birds EP proved, Balam Acab has an uncompromised direction for his music, devising bright R&B vocal samples into dark and distant cries for help, as accompanied strings and bass laden drums trap you in places unknown, unfamiliar and at times both haunting and poignant. It’s hip-hop for the ketamine crowd, witch house for the downer-induced, dance music for the crowds utterly sick of high BPMs. And it’s gorgeous.
Wander/Wonder marks Balam’s debut proper, 8 tracks clocking in at what feels like a much longer than 36 minute runtime. This is not because of the record’s quality, but the style and demure nature the tracks take. Each track is an extended sigh led to a slow exhalation, making them feel like a small excursion through knotted pines or crystalline caverns. As whole, its an idyllic canvas, not being forceful, but allowing the listener to picture the surroundings of its sounds.
Running with the analogy, opening track Welcome acts as an appropriate painter’s swatch. It’s a silence that leads to vinyl crackle, as submerged ether bubbles bringing forth a croon from a bright female vocalist, had she vocalist spent a night with a can of Dust-Off right before she hit the recording booth. This pensive repetition breaks for to light of rolling tides and warm arpeggiated strings, the light at the end of the tunnel. I realize this sounds like I’m rattling off details from a nature painting art exhibit, but the whole thing is pretty fucking picaresque.
The album immediately tightens up with Apart, as clattering chains and wood blocks propel a slow hip-hop beat head first into swelling ambient keys and extrasolar vocals that reverberate around each other. Think label mate Clams Casino if he harbored a deep obsession with the sea. Keeping with my flawless analogies, companion track Motion paints the picture of Sylvia Plath conducting the score for The King and I, as warm bows and meandering pizzicato strings lace bells and chimes, and vocal accompaniment vies, at times unsuccessfully, for the center stage amidst it all. It’s both familiar and foreign, and Balam’s structure of samples bears witness to his creativity. Each track is something you’ve never quite heard before.
And speaking of the sea, water is everywhere on this album. Expect comes in at high tide and flow off into the distance before it can finish and other tracks house creeks which trickle throughout, providing ethereal comfort as juxtaposition to Wander/Wonder‘s darker textures. It’s album title is great testament to that, it’s both a record that you can get lost in and feel completely enchanted by, being simultaneously unfamiliar and warm. It’s perfect for Fall mornings and open windows, and even more so with dim evening lights and a large floor to sprawl out on. Balam Acab is not as unnerving as some of Tri-angle’s more mysterious label roster, but he holds an image of his own, one beautifully distant, his music can be both tenuous and steadfast. Alec Koone is not just a man wrought with beautiful samples from found sources, he is a musician in his own rite.
To further convince you, I implore you to watch this video I’ve put together of fractal haze from Gasper Noe’s Enter the Void as set to Apart from Wander/Wonder
Just plain transcendental.