Release Date: Aug 30, 2011
Record label: Tri Angle
Genre(s): Electronic, Electronica, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
The rapid emergence of micro-genres has a long history in music, but the Internet has intensified the process. Online communication creates a situation where young artists, separated by geography but brought together through the web, can share the same obsessions and quickly develop remarkably similar aesthetics. The umbrella of music sometimes called witch house is perhaps the most obvious example of this in the last few years, since it combined musical concerns (moody synths, slow tempos, warped vocals, allusions to Southern rap) with a specific visual aesthetic (anonymous producers shielded by hoodies, Christian imagery, deep knowledge of the computer keyboard's symbol keys), and so many artists with these exact qualities appeared simultaneously.
It’s no mistake that Alec Koone uses underwater imagery for Balam Acab's album artwork. The underwater chasm that graces Wander/Wonder reflects how Koone's debut full-length is even more deeply aquatic than the See Birds EP was, as well as its subtlety and narrower focus. See Birds was just five songs long, but it covered more musical territory; by contrast, Wander/Wonder is an exercise in depth, a flowing suite of mermaid’s lullabies that turn seductive.
Mid last year, Pennsylvanian Alec Koone (aka Balam Acab) was pigeonholed firmly into witch house with his See Birds EP, an industrial loop of the genre’s usual malevolence. But whilst clearly having witch house influences, See Birds was a signal that Koone’s talent was exceeding the micro genre: actress Ellen Page gave him a nod and ‘See Birds’ was featured in a (L’Oreal advert) [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGv6dVhVtwA] starring Beyonce. If there were any further proof of Koone’s talent, Wander/Wonder would be it.
Let's be honest here: the stuff Alec Koone makes as Balam Acab is basically trip-hop. It slumps with the same deliberate wooziness. It's just the palette that has changed. We've updated from jazz and soundtrack sources to digitally manipulated fragments of sound and R&B acapellas. That's not to ….
The blog-born label “witch house” has been thrown around with sloppy abandon and alarming regularity for about a year now, affixed by excitable music journalists to every buzzworthy artist with a halfway decent pitch shifter and a taste for ambient goth. And as is the case for any flavor-of-the-month nomenclature, those who don’t necessarily belong in its clutches inevitably get snatched up and clenched into a formless, ill-defined ball of genre ambiguity. To wit, electro upstart Balam Acab (a.k.a.
Review Summary: hush little baby, don't say a wordListening to Wander/Wonder is an experience akin to having awkward but passionate teenage sex while your parents are watching TV in another part of the house. It’s hushed, muffled by the sound of the movie the two of you just picked for the noise, yet intense, romantic even. This is no fuck; you’re in love here, you believe.
“A wandering minstrel he, a thing of shreds and patches/ Of ballads, songs, and snatches/ And dreamy lullaby…” Nice dreams, that would be. What possible teenage prodigy Alec Koone (a.k.a. Balam Acab) does extremely well are crisp crunchy beats immersed in a structuralized aural fog. In other words, this is music for stoners par excellence — not so much Wandering as watery eyes.
Wander/Wonder, the debut full-length (well, just about - it's only half an hour long) from Balam Acab, AKA 20 year old New Yorker Alec Koone, is a very perplexing experience. While still demonstrating the imaginative, immaculate production skills that brought him a fair amount of attention last year, and a gig soundtracking a L'Oreal ad starring Beyoncé (surely 2010's weirdest musical collaboration), it's also a record that lurches between the sublime and the ridiculous with dizzyingly regularity, or as dizzying as something so deliberately low-key can be. Even when he first emerged on the blogosphere, Balam Acab seemed like a bit of a wild-card.