“In the writing and demoing process for Clear Language, we listened to a wide array of different genres and eras of music separately throughout our days of thinking and dreaming about what we wanted this album to be.
Our last full-length (2012’s Stranger) had been more complex in the writing and instrumentation and after a little time off, I think it seemed right to step back a touch and let more space and breath into the music. We each brought new ideas to the table that were definitely (perhaps subconsciously) influenced from all the music we’d separately ingested on our own time.
It was a true amalgam and a wild mix spanning from early Friends of Dean Martinez, Daniel Lanois’ ‘Belladonna’, The Caretaker’s ‘An Empty Bliss Beyond This World’ to ‘Love and Peace’ by Girma Yifrashewa, Miles Davis’ ‘In A Silent Way’ and ‘Discreet Music’ by Eno”
.Balmorhea discuss the three records that set them on the road to the music they make today.
Tortoise – Tortoise
(Michael Muller, Guitars)
I have a distinct memory of sitting in my best childhood friend’s bedroom in the mid-90’s. I was into the grunge and alternative scenes as well as starting to get into Fugazi and other punk and indy stuff I would hear on skate videos at the time. My friend had just returned from Lou’s Records in the town over from our’s and had bought the first release from Tortoise (Tortoise – Tortoise, Thrill Jockey, 1994).
This was some of the most unusual and alluring sounds I’d heard in my life; the music was honest and alive. You could almost feel the textures of the varied instrumentation touching you through the speakers. After getting a copy for myself I remember sitting in my bedroom listening to it on repeat for months and dreaming about one day making my own music. As fate would have it we would play with Tortoise a few times in the late 00s as well as track about 1/2 of our 2012 record ‘Stranger’ at SOMA studio in Chicago, which was owned and operated by John McEntire of Tortoise.
To this day, now over 20 years later, they are still creating some of the most unique and visceral music on the planet.
Max Richter – The Blue Notebooks
(Rob Lowe, Piano/Guitars)
I grew up in a small town in west Texas and was completely isolated from any type of underground or independent music. My musical education came heavily from my involvement with my local Methodist church as well as my traditional small-town classical training on the piano. I grew up grudgingly learning classics from a different era (Chopin, Beethoven, Debussy etc.) as well as whatever popular music randomly crossed my horizon. When I got to college at the University of Texas at Austin by musical horizons were exploded.
I remember waking into the old Little City Coffee shop there on Guadalupe next to the university and the barista was playing this dark and beautifully mysterious album. I asked and learned that it was ‘The Blue Notebooks.’ I think that perhaps the resonance of this album at that time for me was that it was connected in a serious way to all of the European classical music I had studied, but not connected to, as a child. That album somehow translated all of that education into a contemporary language that I could understand and connect to; it felt mine in some way.
This was before Richter’s music was synced into every movie ever made and it felt like a revelation. It’s almost embarrassing to listen back now and hear the direct ways that I was influenced by his music, but at the time this album surely sent me down a creative path that had a huge influence on the music we went on to create with Balmorhea.
Rachel’s – Systems/Layers
(Rob Lowe & Michael Muller, Balmorhea)
For both of us, this band and album opened up our minds about what we could do as Balmorhea.
Rachel’s albums explored a vast territory and weren’t confined to a certain genre or instrumentation. I was lucky enough to get to see them play at the Cactus Cafe in Austin in 2005 — this was well before we had convened the band and I don’t think I can overstate the impact that that one performance had on me.
It’s pretty wild how at that age a singular experience can set you on a path that effects the rest of your life. It’s inspiring to think about the raw power of music. Balmorhea has been fortunate enough to perform alongside Rachel Grimes and we count that as a huge accomplishment.
It’s a shame to me that Rachel’s is still a relatively little-known band, because I believe that the work they did in the late 90s really paved the way for a lot of the post-classical and post-rock music that has such a broad audience today.