Aisha Burns: Life in the Midwater
Often when you're in your mid-20's heavy realities start to settle in. Relationships that seemed like they'd last forever lose their spark, your aspirations and self-perception shift, you marvel at friends your age getting married and having babies, and you feel powerless and small, realizing that people you've known and loved for a lifetime can suddenly die. It's a serious psychological shakeup, made even more difficult if your frontal cortex hasn't fully matured yet. It's a beast, a mountain, a wall, or as in Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey, a mysterious obelisk that pushes you to evolve?like it or not. For better or worse, parts of us die, new parts come to life, and if we're lucky we emerge smarter, stronger, and more resilient. It's no surprise that for ages we've felt a deep sense of connection with music, art, and films inspired by this metamorphosis. Aisha Burns' Life in the Midwater provides a snapshot of the rough stuff, but with a delicate sensitivity and wisdom beyond her years.
Burns' contributions as the violinist and occasional vocalist for the Austin band Balmorhea belie a nuanced songwriting prowess, and a dynamic and powerful voice. The album's title references a deep dark layer of the ocean that flows far below the surface, and just above what we call the deeps sea. Bioluminescent jellyfish often inhabit this layer of the ocean, emitting mysterious flashes of light despite the risk of exposing themselves to potential predators. Similarly Aisha's songs are dreamlike beacons in the inky abyss?
Anomoanon: Portrait of John Entwistle
A Portrait of John Entwistle is the fourth installment of the WesternVinyl portrait series, which has included Bonnie Prince Billy, Papa M, andAppendix Out, and is scheduled to include Robert Lippok, Mick Turner, andKohn. The Anomoanon have chosen to develop a portrait of John Entwistle,former bass player for the Who, after his death in 2002. The four tracks,each pulsing with the energy of the late Entwistle, include threeoriginals and one cover. In the end, the album leaves the listener with asense of warmth and longing and a renewed perspective on the absenceEntwistle has left behind
On Stranger Balmorhea continues the cosmic dialog they began with their eponymous debut in 2007. Though the spirit of Texas' early inhabitants and the weight of the night sky inspired previous albums All is Wild, All is Silent (2009) and Constellations (2010), Stranger shifts the focus from the celestial to the terrestrial, or more accurately, it begins to explore the celestial resonance in all things terrestrial.
Balmorhea's music has always been guided by the experience of living in Texas, but with Stranger the band moves beyond contemplative reverence for the land and the history of their home state. The most forward-leaning of their catalog, Stranger presents worlds of tenderness, aggression, estrangement, and freedom using an expanded sonic palette including guitar loops, vibes, synthesizers, ukulele, and steel pan drums. In addition to these new sounds, electric guitars and percussion take the stage once occupied by piano and acoustic guitars.
Opening with the electric guitar loops, synths, and steel drums of "Days", the band invites us to move forward with them as they explore without pretense or expectation. "Pilgrim" provides the perfect ending, blurring alpha and omega...a concluding gesture taking us back to our beginnings.
Balmorhea: Rivers Arms
In 2008 we had the honor of releasing our first Balmorhea record Rivers Arms. Though the band?s sound and size has grown, the soulful collection of songs on Rivers Arms continues to resonate with listeners. From the contented isolation of "The Winter" to the hazy heat and hopeful longing of "San Solomon," their music captures the indescribable feelings of living and growing in Texas.
Now, 4 years later, we?re excited to make this limited edition vinyl version of Rivers Arms available with 4 bonus tracks and updated artwork. Still wearing their bathing suits, Rob Lowe and Michael Muller recorded the first two bonus tracks as children jumped and splashed in San Solomon Springs (Balmorhea State Park) in the background. These two sunny guitar pieces are followed by a powerful live version of ?Theme? recorded in Vienna, Austria. The final track is a version of ?San Solomon? featuring live drums, recorded in 2008 for their very limited tour E.P.
Balmorhea: Live at Sint-Elisabethkerk
Though Balmorhea's studio recordings never fail to impress, their songs have always been most powerful and affecting when performed live. The group's intense soulfulness during a live set is consistently remarkable and this special recording from Ghent, Belgium is no exception. The opening track alone is goosebump-inducing, and perfectly sets the tone for this intimate recording.
Throughout the evening the band played with so much energy and emotion that's hard to believe they had just arrived at the venue after a long sleepless drive from Spain. With massive stone walls and floors, the Saint Elisabeth Church (built in 1873) colored each song with a natural reverb and delay, while amplifying the tiniest incidental sounds from the crowd. Despite the intense cold of the unheated church, the band's fingers remained nimble, warmed only by the glow of the candles used to light the stage and the center aisle. As the candles burn out the show comes to an end with the crowd-pleaser "Untitled" followed by a solo piano encore performance of "Constellations." We hope you enjoy this recording as much as we do, and if you haven't experienced a Balmorhea show, we hope this album inspires you to check them out next time they're in your town.
Balmorhea's previous album All is Wild, All is Silent explored the freedom and isolation of settlers learning to live on an untamed frontier. It was an intensely physical album, dealing with the struggles of man on earth. By contrast, their new album Constellations shifts our focus to the cosmos and beyond, meditating solemnly on the mystical and metaphysical. For centuries humans have distilled order from the chaos of the night sky, turning a collection of bright dots into the framework for giants of myth and legend. Similarly, the tracks on Constellations serve as framework for our individual mediations on the wonders of time and space.
Balmorhea: All Is Wild, All Is Silent Remixes
The idea to release the All is Wild, All is Silent Remixes evolved organically as the band asked a few of their closest friends if they'd like to remix a track. To their surprise 11 of their friends jumped at the opportunity to create remixes of these wordless narratives that have become so meaningful to them. The resulting album is distinctly more experimental than the original album, but no less joyous and haunting. Many of the tracks retain Balmorhea's uniquely American optimism, though some hardly leave a trace of the original's simplicity and restraint. Highlights include remixes by Eluvium, Peter Broderick, Tiny Vipers, Bexar Bexar, and Helios.
Balmorhea: All Is Wild, All Is Silent
Austin's Balmorhea has always made beautiful music, but that pulchritude has often belied the underlying sensuality that makes their music so inviting. The band takes a giant leap forward, embracing that sensuality, on their bold and variegated new album? All is Wild, All is Silent. Now a six piece, the band known for their understated simplicity and restraint has produced an album as complex as the workings of the lonely human heart.
Bexar Bexar: Tropism
"Many of the songs have this feeling that's hard to describe but so satisfying to hear: like a sadness that's been buried and you're soldiering quietly on, and not making a show of it. The spare, lovely melodies swell and recede, all with perfect precision and tremendous understated feeling. How this music can be so emotional without ever getting sentimental or corny is completely beyond me" ? Ira Glass, This American Life
Botany: Lava Diviner (True Story)
When our human experiences defy articulation, music and film can sometimes be the only languages we have to communicate with. In 1975, Peter Weir directed Picnic at Hanging Rock, a haunting film in which a group of schoolgirls disappear while exploring a volcanic rock in the Australian outback. Through the film, Weir explores landscapes of intense memory, and the mysterious forces that bend, mold, and erode the core of our psyches. Similarly, Lava Diviner (Truestory), the debut full-length from Texas native, Spencer Stephenson, gives voice to those ancient transformative forces within ourselves, amplified to the point of distortion by the dry Texas heat.
Though texturally inspired by early new age records like Iasos? Inter-Dimensional Music, and sample-based collage ventures like Colleen?s Everyone Alive Wants Answers, Lava Diviner (Truestory) is reinforced with a robust percussive backbone. Still, Stephenson never resorts to shallow MPC trickery or contrived mixtape clumsiness. Instead, his proto-new age textures float elegantly atop a primal boom-bap pulse to paint a detailed, rhythmic mural that has the scope of a ?70s prog rock epic. ?On Lava Diviner, I wanted to conjure that same headspace that artists like Roger Dean, and even Zdzislaw Beksinski project in their iconic paintings,? says Stephenson. ?I tried to evoke those grand, colorful, surreal landscapes that are mind-bending yet oddly comforting - sci-fi and epic and holy, all at the same time.?
Botany: Feeling Today
Feeling Today is Spencer Stephenson's debut release under the Botany moniker. The culmination of years of assembling music, this EP, and his forthcoming full-length, flow with a transcendental radiance. Under the gauzy patina of decades-old samples, this Texan sound-sculptor masterfully merges the past and the present, the earthly and the infinite.
Spencer recalls recording a casio keyboard onto cassette-tape at the age of 4, and becoming hooked on the simple idea that he could capture sounds and share them with those around him. Now 22, he's still at it, playing instruments and stitching sounds together in his home atop a hill, surrounded by trees, fringed by the wide Texas horizon.
Spencer explores the cosmic nexus of shimmering psychedelia, blissed-out pop, and instrumental hip-hop, as he turns recycled sounds into something thoroughly modern. For him there's a therapeutic value in reconfiguring the "noise" of an information-dense consumer culture into something nourishing and honest. He collects artifacts...scavenged bits of ephemera...all of the organic and inorganic matter that passes through our hands and heads everyday and he uses them to build something deeply personal. Ultimately, he reminds us that the natural world we are a part of is one of boundless wonder and color."