Released on June 16
Sound colours run through Balmorhea’s second album for Deutsche Grammophon. Pendant World retains the essential spirit of the Texas-based group’s music, thanks to collaborations between founders Rob Lowe and Michael A. Muller and guest artists. Pendant World is released digitally, on CD and on vinyl today, 16 June 2023.
Joining Lowe and Muller on the new album are regular collaborators violinist/vocalist Aisha Burns and cellist Clarice Jensen, and a distinguished line-up of guest artists, including experimental jazz saxophonist Sam Gendel, Joseph Shabason on tenor saxophone and flute, clarinetist Jonathan Sielaff, percussionist Jason Treuting and vocalists Steph Jenkins and Lisa Morgenstern. The music was recorded in rural Vermont in collaboration with three-time Grammy-winning engineer and producer Jonathan Low (The National, Taylor Swift, Sufjan Stevens). “Mike and I were yearning to make music with others in a collaborative way after long months of lockdown,” recalls Rob Lowe. The title Pendant World derives from a quotation Lowe discovered while reading Lyall Watson’s book Heaven’s Breath: A Natural History of the Wind. He was struck by a line from Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, in which one of the principal characters contemplates death and compares it to being “imprison’d in the viewless winds, / And blown with restless violence round about / The pendant world”. Thoughts of a world suspended, its fate to be decided, took root in Lowe’s mind. “It felt like the right image for the time we were composing most of the music,” he says. “It played into a distilled idea of the world, like an earring or precious jewel, being violently suspended. In some ways it captured this contrast of beauty and fear, which many people experienced during the pandemic; it also relates to themes that we’d explored in The Wind.” And, as Muller notes, Dylan Hausthor’s evocative black-and-white cover image also “juxtaposes those ideas of fear and beauty”.
“We had a desire to create new sounds,” explains Lowe. He notes that the album’s short opening track, “Nonplussed”, includes found sounds that were manipulated and gradually slowed down to create a feeling of disorientation. “We’d never used this before since we started making music together as Balmorhea in 2006. It was new compositional territory for us.” Muller goes on: “Our main Balmorhea ‘voices’ are piano and open-tuned acoustic guitars with some string elements, to which we’ve added everything from samples and vinyl recordings to synthesizers, brass and flutes. It was about retaining our identity while pushing the envelope for ourselves creatively.”
The duo’s original compositions were further refined in the studio. “Sam Gendel helped us hit some of the marks we were hoping to achieve,” Lowe observes. “That energy of jazz, which really hits home, was very important to us. Neither Mike nor I are jazz players, so we needed a helping hand. Sam did a really good job with that.”
Balmorhea – upcoming tour dates:
7 July – CSO ADA, Ankara
8 July – Maximum Uniq Açıkhava, Istanbul 12 July – Silent Green, Berlin
14 July – Milton Court Concert Hall, Barbican, London 5 Oct – The Paramount Theatre, Austin
7 Oct – Le Poisson Rouge, New York City