Memoria Textil, Balún
Sgulp! Records, Puerto Rico
Rating: 80 (****)
By Carlos Reyes
Aural hues, infectious vocals and sophisticated 8bits; Puerto Rico’s Balún crafted one hell of a good mini-album, one that blossoms as it gets unfold. The New York-based band has been under our radar for a while, finding proper momentum through the release of EPs, singles and a bunch of compilations. Recently, they released the captivatingly forlorn and ghostly “Camila”, which is actually an upfront from their forthcoming LP, the second in their career. The song revealed a sharp, awe-inspiring and clear-headed Balún, Memoria Textil might be an ‘in between mini-album’ but what a wonderful endearing surprise.
The band is still branching out their sound, holding their feet in that sort of substantial equation where they’re still allowed to chase themes and music channels. It’s nice to see they don’t just stop at brainstorming and actually find texture along the way. On my initial skim of the album, the songs drew (and realized) themselves quite easily, to my surprise, repeating spins revealed anything but a sketchy scrapbook album. Memoria Textil is gorgeously crafted; from the artwork itself to its content. The improvised handmade package is lovely, screenprinted art on tanyon fabric; we could praise these songs by that description alone. The physical release is limited to just 100 copies, unique.
Promotional track “El Árbol y Las Otras Cosas” is coy and twee, but also a rush of adventurous pop that doesn’t hesitate to show its dynamics. It’s the rise of the sun shining especially bright at a particular tree, a tall strawberry tree who doesn’t want to let go. “Un día asoleado le dijo al árbol, me voy a otro lado, y el árbol le dijo: ¡no no no no no no no no! Lo abrazo y no lo soltó.” This is a deeply emotional song; it touched my fears as a kid, I was there and I was the tree. It is followed by “Las Olas”, perhaps the most accessible track in the album, it frames a voyage where life’s desires are juxtaposed with qualities that are already with us; “las olas son chicle de la tienda, los peces son revistas viejas, los niños son ropa en las maletas, los carros son los que nos llevan.”
Balún maps out a gem, an adventure with plenty to look out. From its room tone, to Angelica Negron’s well hidden vocals which come up as gentle rather than shy. The instrumental passages such as “Las Abejas” and “El Paseo” are profound and colorful, attentive and responsive to their depth. The songs are for the most part modest, I wouldn’t necessarily tag them as lo-fi, they’re too jumpy for it. They’re far better located along the lines of Sr. Amable, Internet 2 or Nuuro, moving away from the pastel colors. A mini-album with a big heart, this is great, can’t wait for the actual second album.