Clear Language (Western Vinyl)
Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., Oct. 20, 2017
Between their eponymous 2007 debut and 2012's fourth studio LP Stranger, Balmorhea shaped and expanded its gorgeously layered soundscapes into ever-more stunning compositions. Austin's multi-instrumental pairing of Rob Lowe and Michael Muller seemed in constant search of the perfect moment, even while realizing the ephemeral impossibility of its resonance. Their sextet's return after five years strips away the grand flourishes that climaxed with Stranger and turns back to the slowly unwinding and enveloping tones of their first efforts as a duo. At times, the instrumentals arc elegiac, though never mournful, the opening title track and smooth touch of "Sky Could Undress" demanding patience as their substance lingers in the pauses. "Slow Stone" rolls most compellingly, the brassy jazz touch softly dissolving into a warm guitar distortion that feeds the waterfall blur of "Ecco." While none of the 10 tracks surprise with the energy of Lowe's solo outing earlier this year, Clear Language communicates powerfully in its restraint.