Release Date: Mar 4, 2014
Record label: Western Vinyl Records
Genre(s): R&B, Soul, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Neo-Soul, Alternative Dance, Post-Disco, Neo-Disco
Ava Luna has never been an easy band making easy music. Equal and impressive parts rock and orchestral doo-wop, the septet hues closest to a sensual, white-boy kind of R & B. Electric Balloon is pleasantly eclectic, especially the female-led openers “Sears Roebuck M&Ms” and “PRPL.” Both flirt with dissonance, using atonality to only highlight their softer, gentler moments.
Ethan Bassford, the fatefully named bassist of Brooklyn art-rock oddballs Ava Luna, got into a few arguments with singer/guitarist Carlos Hernandez while they were writing their 2012 debut album, Ice Level. Couldn't they at least try to write a song with a chorus?, Bassford wondered. As the freewheeling, compositionally adventurous Ice Level attests—the answer was a resounding no.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. For their second long-player, the Big Apple's finest avant-garde funk-punk outfit - Ava Luna - have changed up the work ethic that proved successful on their first LP. Instead of Ava Luna's diaspora dispersing to cultivate genius, they worked together, coming up with ideas and building upon loose foundations as a cohesive unit, as opposed to their standard methods of lonerism and isolation.
Brooklynites Ava Luna’s second album is delightfully bewildering. Opening statement ‘Daydream’ bleats a David Byrne tribute over jagged Television guitars. It’s post-punk with a disco bent, its colours nailed firmly to the mast of its influences. So far, so standard… until the next track ….
Chaos. That would be best and most appropriate word to describe the debut album from Brooklyn’s Ava Luna. The band’s heady combination of soul, punk and funk presented something that was both wildly ambitious and, at times, frustratingly restless throughout the running time of Ice Level. Fronted by Carlos Hernandez – who is the songwriter, arranger and producer for Ava Luna – the band were almost too complicated for their own good.
On their 2012 debut, Ice Level, Brooklyn-based Ava Luna's songs often suffocated under the weight of their own composition. Busy and sharp with conflicting instruments, arrangements, and voices, the album's cluttered approach to avant funk was chaotic, teetering at times on the verge of incoherence. Electric Balloon strips away much of the confusion of Ava Luna's chaotic debut, while keeping its astute sense of song construction, resulting in a much more accessible and enjoyable listen.
Ava Luna’s music collection could be worse. The Brooklyn five-piece excel at taste-splicing in an era when nothing is new and combining old sounds and styles to create something fleetingly unique is the go-to modus operandi. The New York post-punk and no wave of ESG, James Chance and the Contortions and Talking Heads are easy to spot influences, as are more current inspirations such as Aaliyah and Dirty Projectors.
n opener ‘Daydream’, Brooklynites Ava Luna have a near post-punk masterpiece. Channelling geographical neighbours Talking Heads and at points the fevered yelps of LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, it’s every bit as angular as anyone could hope. And - there’s handclaps. It’s followed by the curiously-named ‘Sears Roebuck M&Ms’ with its repeated “the most sweet thing” refrain, which continues the theme.
A cursory analysis, or perhaps just a first spin, might suggest that Electric Ballroom is a much more “honed in” affair compared to the more free-form experimentalism Ava Luna showcased on their 2012 debut Ice Level - but that’s all just a trick of the light. Sure, there are some more discernible song structures in place – stumbling blindly, one can feel out the walls separating a jaunty verse from a somewhat friendlier, perhaps more inviting chorus. But if one were to assume Ava Luna had forgotten how to get weird, well they’d be sorely mistaken.
The Cuban-born pianist Fabian Almazan is moving quickly. On his first album, “Personalities,” from two years ago, he showed that he was serious about piano-trio music as well as how to add string-quartet arrangements to tightly woven jazz without making a mess. On “Rhizome,” coming out later this month from Blue Note/ArtistShare, he’s gone further into making hybrid composed-improvised music — now with the Chilean singer and guitarist Camila Meza performing on half the record — that seems fully integrated from conception.
Ava Luna Electric Balloon (Western Vinyl) Brooklyn's Ava Luna makes disparate funk for these desperate times. The band's second proper full-length packs in more references than a LinkedIn profile: Gang of Four's post-punk clamor ("Daydream"), the deep funk minimalism of ESG ("Sears Roebuck M&Ms"), echoes of Talking Heads ("Ab Ovo"), and Purple Rain on repeat (everything else) – all with jigsaw precision and disco. Frontman Carlos Hernandez is the lynchpin, holding the music, if not himself, together.
Sonically spare but stuffed with conflicting ideas, Ava Luna’s second full-length jerks and jitters through Ubu-ish funk-punk, ESG’s syncopated minimalism and the willful eclecticism of latter day outfits like Dirty Projectors and Buke and Gase. A thread of R&B runs fitfully through all these influences, but Ava Luna takes it further, opposing wire-brush abrasion with creamy cool. In “Crown,” for instance, singer Carlos Hernandez floats a tremulous falsetto up into eerie Jeff Buckley territory, while the caustic guitar stutter of “Plain Speech” is soothed with Al Green-ish croons.