Balmorhea

Balmorhea

Adam Torres

Fri, November 3, 2017

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

$15.00 - $20.00

Tickets at the Door

This event is 21 and over

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Balmorhea
Balmorhea
A decade-plus on the road, near-constant musical output, and shifting creative priorities caused the revered Austin duo, comprised of multi-instrumentalists Rob Lowe and Michael 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?

Stranger, the group’s maximalist, genre-leaping full-length from 2012, and the HEIR singles, from 2014, had already seemed to trace the group’s farthest bounds. And, over the years, they’d worked with a roving cast of accomplished string and rhythm players to craft a glassy-eyed, sage-brushed, instrumental Americana that, while celebrated in The New Yorker, Pitchfork and The Atlantic, among myriad other press, and attracting the film, ad, and television worlds — Balmorhea’s “Bowsprit” incites trembling in the credits of the Sundance show Rectify — risked pigeonholing them for good.

Still, though Muller and Lowe sensed that winds hinted at change, they also knew the form of it couldn’t be grasped in the abstract. So, in the spring of 2016, the two longtime friends decamped to Balmorhea’s East Austin studio to suss out what, if anything, was left to convey.

As they had in the beginning, in 2006, Muller and Lowe 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. 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 wonder tumbles through these songs like herons lancing through Kerouac’s “hungermaking” fog.

Clear Language will be released by Western Vinyl, Balmorhea’s longtime label, in September 2017. The album was co-produced and engineered by David Boyle in Austin’s Church House Studios, a renovated Jazz-era haunt — originally housing a Baptist congregation — that has also hosted musicians from Philip Glass’ Looking Glass Studio.

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.
Adam Torres
Adam Torres
In 2006, 20-year-old Adam Torres released his debut album Nostra Nova. The album's 11 songs are idiosyncratic and varied - as are many great songs - with each existing as its own little world. It's influenced by the works of visual artist Adolf Wolfli and C.G. Jung, and it's the sound of Torres making something beautiful. With many truly breathtaking moments throughout, it feels full of promise, and is simultaneously weathered and young. A DIY self-release, Nostra Nova found deep, long-lasting roots within the small Athens, OH community at the time, but didn't resonate farther until much later.
Following its release, Torres went back to college and turned his focus to other interests. But all the while, he never stopped playing music, writing songs, or performing, even while living in Ecuador on and off for two years, teaching English and volunteering in rural villages in the Ecuadorian Andes, among other things. In 2011, Torres moved to Austin, TX and enrolled in graduate school at the University of Texas, and upon finishing, spent two years working for the state of Texas on a project aimed at cleaning the water quality of the Rio Grande River in South Texas.
Having penned more than 100 songs since 2006, he quietly released his first music since Nostra Nova in 2012 through DC cassette-label DZ Tapes, which featured tape-recorded demos made inside the apartments he lived in during his time in Ecuador.
In 2015, Nostra Nova saw a small reissue. Called a "cult classic" by The A.V. Club, the album finally achieved its due, earning additional praise from Stereogum, VICE, Popmatters, All Music Guide, and Flavorwire, which wrote of Torres as, "someone who was, at an early age, able to connect his own odd experiences to the concept of life itself in an almost innate way."
In many respects, that description is a good start at capturing the magic of Torres' music. There's a persisting theme that threads through his own story as well as his forthcoming new LP, Pearls To Swine. Within the cosmos of the album, characters experience a sort of misadventure and persevere, casting light on the way life can lead you down a path that's far from where you wanted to be. Pearls To Swine maps Torres' complicated history as a songwriter and musician: it's the sound of someone who discovered the value in his own devotion to music, and how writing and songs are extensions of his own journey. He embeds his own folklore within his high-lonesome sounding, deeply felt and moving brand of folk music.
Across the album, Torres crafts uniquely cinematic soundscapes, ranging through a thoughtfully languid waltz "Juniper Arms" (inspired by Edward Abbey's iconic book of nature writing Desert Solitaire), and on the evocative, uneasy "Some Beast Will Find You By Name." It wends through the lush, gently undulating "High Lonesome" to the lonely sweep of the Raymond Carver-signaling "Where I'm Calling From," and travels from the foreboding, sinuous "Outlands" to the deceptively buoyant cascade of "Mountain River."
Nature abounds on Pearls To Swine - which also examines the tension of the natural versus the constructed, and survival - filled with imagery of juniper trees, deserts, blood moons, rivers, plains, and big western skies that gives it a distinctively southwestern feel. His style acknowledges the classic singer-songwriter tradition, allowing the rhythm sounds to support the structure of songs, while his affecting falsetto conjures the spirit of traditional vocalists such as John Jacob Niles and Robbie Basho.
Pearls To Swine was recorded over eight days in January at Austin's Cacophony Recorders, which overlooks the Colorado River valley. Working alongside co-producer and mixer Erik Wofford (Bill Callahan, Black Angels, M. Ward, Okkervil River), Torres chose the analog route, recording and mixing directly to tape to allow for more finality and less overthought. This method in turn lends a natural, warm, and almost magical realism atmosphere to the songs - like a high-stakes live show captured in a fantastical setting. The core rhythm was captured live and augmented by a few overdubs, and Torres is joined on the album by the players in his band: Thor Harris (of Swans; on conga drums, vibraphone, and percussion), Aisha Burns (violin), and Dailey Toliver (bass/piano), with drum kit performances by Matthew Shepherd and Rodolfo Villareal III.