on September 26, 2012
"See Birds" was a great opener and seemed to promise future greatness. But this album really doesn't live up to their potential, especially the first track that has horrid Minnie Mouse sped-up/pitch-shifted vocals. (Why oh why???) It sounds like above-average ambient electronica, and there is a lot of that out there these days. I thought I'd found something better, but alas, not yet. I'd recommend Pavohaarju (? spelling) for a similar etheral sound that is more melodic and haunting and organic. Also the amazing Biosphere's "Shenzou", or Caretaker/Leyland Kirby. All of these artists have a less overtly electronic feel, which is beginning to repel me after so much of it. Maybe I'm just of the wrong generation... I almost feel like I wasted my money on this. Maybe it has yet to grow on me, but this genre is getting old at this point.
on December 1, 2011
Since the birth of electronic music, endless sub-genres have emerged from its origin. Several examples of the different forms of electronic music analyzed in class include Musique concrete, Electronische music, Thai folk electronic music, various forms of synthesizers, etc. Modern electronic music is still involving, producing countless genres such as Dubstep, Chillwave, Future Garage, etc. One sub-genre of electronic music that caught my attention was Witch House. Witch house gives off an eerie vibe, using myriad forms of synths, combined with a hard bass and twisted vocals. One of the most prominent and promising artists of this genre is 20 year old Alec Koone who goes by his stage name as Balam Acab. With only one EP released in 2010, Koone released his debut album in 2011, called Wander/Wonder. With the association of these new components seen in Witch House, Balam Acab's album, Wander/Wonder, also exemplifies partial and distorted elements seen in Musique concrete, especially within the works of Pierre Schaffer and Pierre Henry.
Unlike many Witch House genre albums, Wander/Wonder does not show much of this scary and frightening sound. Instead, Balam Acab gives its own style to it by representing more of an appealing and refreshing feel, coupled by its dark and eerie mood set within the original genre's standards. To describe the album in one word, I would use the word, "pretty". Its pulsating rhythms created by moody and 80's synthesizers along with cut up vocal tracks gives the album a pure and aesthetically beautiful feeling to it. If the various elements used in this album were stripped down to its bones, Pierre Henry and Pierre Schaffer's works behind Musique concrete could definitely be heard. In Henry and Schaffer's Symphonie Pour Un Homme Seul / Concerto Des Ambiguïtés, many of the tracks contain fading of vocals along with non-rhythmic distinct sounds gives it a creepy ambience. The similarities in the use of fading in and out of vocals, distinct sounds, and having a dark ambience are all a part of the Wander/Wonder album.
On the first introductory track, "Welcome", the buildup of pulsating synths and vocals immediately give the song a very mysterious and almost tense feeling. However, as the song comes to a conclusion, a brighter synth pulse is used and almost feels like the listener is breaking throw this glass box. Interestingly, the album artwork displays what looks like an aquatic cave of some sort. This first track could be illustrating the first breakthrough from outside of the cave towards the inside, which is where the rest of the album tracks take place. The second track, "Apart", starts with small organic echoes and drops off with a strong bass lead that may be taken as a signifying mark of where the listener first breaks into this cave. Reverberated and echoed synths fade in and out while a distorted echo vocal track is layered on top. These echoed sounds resembles a beautiful take on what it would sound like in this metaphorical cave.
This album starts straying away from the elements seen in Musique concrete when its rhythmic and melodic synths begin coming into play. The vocals on the album also differs in the fact that it utilizes a combination of reverberation, echo, and smooth fade unlike Henry and Schaeffer's sudden cuts of its vocal tracks. Also, Balam Acab uses a lot of organic environmental sounds such as water droplets and water rolling, much like the sounds techniques we manipulated in class. In the fourth track, "Expect", much of this environmental water is heard. It's lulling synth rhythms are backed up by soothing sound samples of water running and dripping. The rest of the songs follow these organic and rhythmic synth backgrounds while layering over a pitch changing vocal track. However, the last track, "Fragile Hope", really struck me as the anchor of the whole album. "Fragile Hope" brings the whole album together by using its haunting and atmospheric ambience, distinct organic environmental sounds of water droplets, and ghostly opera-esque vocals. At the end of the song, footstep-sounding samples are heard with the fading out of vocals, giving the listeners idea of coming back out from the cave.
Overall, the album really gave me a different perspective of these new micro-genres of electronic music. At first, I was a bit skeptical about the new bred of electronic music because there were just too many of them and maybe some genres were merely ripping off the older, more developed forms of electronic music. However, after listening to Balam Acab's Wander/Wonder, it gave me hope that some electronic musicians such as him were legitimately committed to making outstanding music. While listening to this album on repeat, I literally felt myself being enveloped by this metaphorical cave and being in a state of trance that made me feel like the songs were controlling my state of emotion: this is the type of album that I would recommend to everyone; making the listener feel their emotions shift the way the music is. However, for every up there is a down: despite the wonderful use of organic sounds, synths, and vocals, I feel like most of the songs were extremely constant and had little to no change within the songs and comparing all of the songs as a whole. Moreover, I feel as if Balam Acab had too much of an overly focused attitude on this form of sound. On the upside, I was in love with this sound. Therefore, this repetitive use of the same elements was not a problem for me, but maybe a problem for other listeners.