Balmorhea “All Is Wild, All Is Silent Remixes” (2009)

Balmorhea - All Is Wild, All Is Silent Remixes6 months ago, Balmorhea released their 3rd album, a praised effort that explored the raw landscapes of 19th-century America, in a way that furthered the path of Rachel’s. From the 9 epic songs that owe as much to post-rock and folk as they do to chamber music, 8 have now gone through the hands and ears of 11 of today’s finest sound artists, resulting in a surprising new re-interpretation of the album, now released on double-LP vinyl and digital download by Western Vinyl.

With a 17+minute opening, Eluvium sets the tone, muffling the original melody of “Settler” as an underlying guiding thread for layers of choirs and strings with looped acoustic guitars. As many of the artists here, he has chosen to strip down Balmorhea’s song, and shape their raw sound material into a much more ambient direction. Rafael Anton Irisarri and Tiny Vipers keep on with this introspective approach, both calming down the vigor of “Harm & Boon”, while Bexar Bexar’s guitar samples open up to a slightly brighter sound on his short “Elegy”. After a couple minutes of organ and creaks, Machinefabriek playfully introduces a deep, vibrating double-bass halfway through his vision of “Remembrance”. The Fun Years are the first to use a more straight-forward drum rhythm on “Coahuila”. Library Tapes has also kept the drums for that same track, but the beat gets more hesitant, as it supports an acoustic instrumentation, remaining closer to Balmorhea’s sound than any other remixer on the record. Jacaszek adds a peculiar DIY touch, with cheap percussions, and interweaving waves of organs and guitars. Helios comes next and drags “Truth” into indietronica spheres (Get the MP3 here). Quite unexpectedly, Peter Broderick litteraly addresses a letter to his dear friends from Texas as he builds on a motif of piano and choirs to which he adds his own voice and violin. On the other side of the sound spectrum, Xela eventually slowly lets “November 1, 1832″ drown into a growingly overwhelming feedback.

Compared to the Austin band’s original album, this one may sound drier. It is indeed much more abstract and experimental, the lyricism and complex song structures being left aside to the benefit of feelings and ambiences. Tearing apart and stretching out tiny bits of melodies, resonating strings and sound accidents, those 11 remixes, though illustrated with a black-and-white cover, really reveal myriads of shades through the headphones, and bring the attentive listener into a worthy contemplation of a rich and wild inner nature.