Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Balmorhea bring an increased sense of musical ambition to Pendant World

"Pendant World"

Release date: 16 June 2023
Balmorhea Pedant World cover
19 June 2023, 09:00 Written by Ray Honeybourne

Recently signed to the prestigious classical Deutsche Grammophon label, Balmorhea are back with their second album on DG, and the follow-up to 2021’s The Wind.

That record presented an elegantly played, if rather narrowly defined, sequence of pieces that conveyed the clear musical talent of Rob Lowe (keyboards) and Michael A. Muller (guitars) accompanied by, among others, Clarice Jensen on cello. The new work on Pendant World has a greater range and, accordingly, an increased sense of musical ambition. Particularly pleasing is the variety of rhythms ventured that pull the recording some effective distance from the more ambient character of two years ago.

With its clashing sounds, the arresting and appropriately titled opener “Nonplussed" initiates the more vigorous sonics. Despite the greater energy, there is no loss of discipline, and on the following “Oscuros” the change of pace introduced by the piano is beautifully handled before the track opens out with strings. Lowe’s delicate work on “Step Step Step” is given a well-judged degree of gravitas through Sam Gendel’s saxophone and Clarice Jensen’s cello. In less secure hands, the multiplicity of instruments could threaten to overwhelm, but this is avoided by fine, imaginative arranging, matched by Jonathan Lowe’s producing and mixing here and with the astute slight recessing of the female vocals on “The Bright Door”.

Very occasionally, there is a tendency to meander or circle around a theme, when a more assertive line could be taken, but much more common (even among the more stripped-back tracks) there is a purposeful sense of direction, as on “Range” where the emphasis shifts decisively through the timely introduction of the bass notes.

The industrial tones of “Violet Shiver” are remarkably well complemented by the cello, alongside some excellent percussive work providing just the right amount of weight before the music slows when the piano re-enters. It’s a good illustration of how, at its best, Pendant World shows that neo-classical beauty does not necessarily have to embody fragility.

Share article

Get the Best Fit take on the week in music direct to your inbox every Friday

Read next