Known for their stark-yet-vibrant portraits of emotional landscapes, Texan instrumental ensemble Balmorhea defies easy categorization. Founded in 2006, the group has released seven full-length albums, most recently The Wind — their first for the storied Deutsche Grammophon label.
Spanning genres while resonating with a vast worldwide listenership, Balmorhea have performed to audiences from Mexico City to China, Istanbul to Italy; they’ve played everywhere from gothic cathedrals to rock clubs, renowned art museums to respected European venues like Berlin’s Funkhaus and Brussels’ Bozar. Their sound is open and approachable yet does not shy away from blurring genre boundaries.
Balmorhea’s keenly awaited second album Pendant World for Deutsche Grammophon will be released digitally, on CD and on vinyl on 16 June 2023. Pendant World retains the essential spirit of the Texas-based group’s music while transporting it to fresh creative territory thanks to collaborations between founders Rob Lowe and Michael A. Muller and an exceptional line-up of guest artists. Above all, its thirteen tracks cross genre boundaries to explore heartfelt forms of expression. Joining Lowe and Muller on the new album are regular collaborators violinist/vocalist Aisha Burns and cellist Clarice Jensen, and an equally distinguished line-up of guest artists, including ambient jazz saxophonist Sam Gendel, Joseph Shabason on tenor sax and flute, clarinettist Jonathan Sielaff, percussionist Jason Treuting and vocalists Steph Jenkins and Lisa Morgenstern.
1. Balmorhea’s namesake is a small town in the isolated desert mountains of far west Texas
2. ‘Pendant World’ is the Balmorhea’s 8th studio release and 2nd for the Deutsche Grammophon label
3. For the first time since 2018, Balmorhea will return to the European stage this July to perform in Türkiye, Germany and England.
1. What is the biggest inspiration for your music?
I wouldn’t say it’s one thing in particular. Rather, the whole blend of influences are woven together from bits of literature, film, nature, music and human culture both past and present. All of these colors and others simultaneously swirling in the subconscious to inform and elicit some reaction and output in response.
2. How and when did you get into making music?
My father played folk guitar and would play songs at bedtime when I was a young child. He taught me the basic chords and theory, which I absorbed and ran with.
I was fortunate to have music playing around the house growing up. Upon beginning formal guitar lessons at age 12, my teacher showed me how to understand and exercise skills in listening and reinterpreting music I adored. This practice taught me how to interpret, internalize and recapitulate sounds that moved me. From there, I had a the solid base from which to create my own voices which eventually would spiral outward and intersect with likeminded individuals. Chiefly: meeting and connecting with Rob Lowe our shared love of music. Balmorhea was thusly born in 2006.
3. What are 5 of your favourite albums of all time?
Bill Evans Trio – Sunday at the Village Vanguard
Dirty Three – Ocean Songs
Ray Lynch – Deep Breakfast
Paul Simon – Graceland
Tortoise – TNT
Harold Budd – Perhaps
The Caretaker – An Empty Bliss Beyond This World
Fugazi – In On The Kill Taker
Daniel Lanois – Belladonna
Rachel’s – Systems/Layers
4. What do you associate with Berlin?
Our first-ever show in Berlin (with Nils Frahm in 2009) at Schokoladen, meandering walks in Kreuzberg, drinks at dusk on the Spree, recording ‘The Wind’ at Funkhaus Saal 3, late nights in the Michelberger courtyard, laying in the grass at Tempelhof, pastries from Albatross on bright mornings
5. What’s your favourite place in your town?
The various hiking trails in the canyons and parks of Los Angeles: Beachwood, Elysian, Griffith, Temescal, Topanga, etc.
6. If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?
I imagine I’d be involved in some capacity with photography (gallery exhibitions and/or book publishing)
7. What was the last record/music you bought?
Workin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet (2023 OJC Repress)
8. Who would you most like to collaborate with?
9. What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?
Performer: Lunario – Mexico City, 2013 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLWXt1hQFMY)
Spectator: Tortoise at the Pitchfork Mid-Winter Festival – Chicago, 2019 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwJf5fw57Yo)
10. How important is technology to your creative process?
We do lean and rely on technology more than we realize; especially in the compositional and recording processes.
The human element is always paramount in our music, however. Digital elements and manipulation are present but seemingly always in a supportive/supplemental role.
11. Do you have siblings and how do they feel about your career/art?
I have one brother who is very engaged and supportive of our music. He’s also an artist (graphic designer) and can sympathize with the pros and cons of creativity in the modern age.