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Balam Acab – Wander/Wonder review

After scoring sizable internet chatter points with the Clams Casino album just a few weeks ago, Tri Angle leap into action once again with yet more atmospheric headphone clobber, this time from Balam Acab. As with other output on the label, the rhythms of low slung hip-hop and dubstep provide a diving board off which the emotive tendencies of the artist can spin, weave and flutter.

Opening proceedings on this eight tracker, “Welcome” is something of a foil in its title as the ominous tones and mournful operatics hover in suspended animation, with only the briefest moment of light at the end of the tunnel when some strings swell in for 30 seconds. It’s hardly a warm greeting, but it does make for one of the most engaging parts of the album.

From “Apart” onwards a more consistent style is established, comprised of languid beats, layers of synth washes and slow release sub-bass. It’s all very palatable and engaging bar one element; the helium vocals. Of course these things are always subjective, but the austere, dare-we-say classical composition of the melodic content seems completely at odds with a production technique normally reserved for happy hardcore.

There are some genuinely daring songs on this release, not least the spacious, water-lapping balladry of “Await”, but perpetually those Alvin & The Chipmunk vocals barge in on moments of fragile intimacy. Obviously Balam Acab had his own purpose behind including them on nearly every track, but to these ears it seems nigh on impossible to work out what that was.

Oli Warwick