Balmorhea - Rivers Arms
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Rivers Arms

Quickly following the release of their self-titled debut last year, Rivers Arms finds young Texas-based duo (along with some friends) Balmorhea landing on Western Vinyl Records and continuing their lovely instrumental ways. The fourteen track, nearly hour-long release isn't the type of album to hit you over the head with anything fancy, instead fusing influences as widely ranging as chamber music and dusty folk into a pretty album that mingles both electric and acoustic instrumentation with field recordings and little glints of processing.

"San Solomon" opens the release with a recording of what sounds like kids playing in a pool before a graceful, and slightly melancholy mixture of banjo, violin, piano, and wordless vocals carry it through like some long-lost faded memory of a childhood summer. It's probably not a coincidence that several of the tracks on the release relate to either seasons or places. "The Summer" and "The Winter" arrive back-to-back, and take appropriately colored turns. The former finds warm picked guitar melodies playing out over a wispy string tone, while the latter falls off into a contemplative string and piano duet.

Another set of tracks takes the group in a completely different direction as "Context" drifts through what sounds like field recordings of a church choir and mini-orchestra practicing before drifting through the streets again with a bell chiming in the distance. "Process" brings the rough recording style back down to a local level, with filtered guitar washes stuttering along as garbled radio broadcasts and other static breaks the surface. With most tracks containing only three instruments or less, Balmorhea is an exercise in efficiency, but it's to their credit that Rivers Arms is engaging nearly throughout. If you're a fan of instrumental music, it's probably nothing that you haven't heard before, but it should appeal to everyone from fans of Max Richter to Do Make Say Think (or at least their quieter moments).

rating: 7.2510
Aaron Coleman 2008-02-21 20:14:11