Balam Acab offers an album worth of slow electronic tunes for his debut album. He previously released the 'witch house' tweaked EP See Birds. That EP featured lots of lo-fi, lots of beats and lots of downtempo. It seems his downtempo style has improved because Wander / Wonder is one relaxing electronic album. His work studying music has paid off, with this debut albums becoming a solid and respectable album as time passes. His name is Alec Koone, he's from Pennsylvania and (in my opinion) has an obsession with water.
'Welcome' is the perfect introduction to Acab's music. Swirling water, a stark synth line on the left and a sickening thud bass run through the centre of this track. Delicate sampled vocals from who knows where enter and fade, with layers upon layers of synths and soundscapes taking place. This music is ideal for driving, reading, drinking beer, but not for a party. The album suddenly goes from ground level to first floor with the first real mind-blowing track 'Apart'. The bass synthesizer is extremely heavy, glitchy and works with the left sided sounds and the centre glitches. The female high pitched vocal is lovely and works with all this electronic instrumentation. Reverb is carefully applied to certain layers, with others, mostly the bass.. Being extremely dense. I dig the textures, the bass, the samples and the constant vision of running water.
This album never really stops; it's one for the repeat button. The following track 'Motion' sums up Acab's debut album perfectly. Looped synths open the track with a looped female vocal. You can hear many ambient soundscapes early on with a string riff before the bass kicks, the beat trickles and the image of water comes to mind. The keyboard samples on the left side are nostalgic, hitting the high notes with beauty. The vocals, which I cannot understand at all.. Have every dream pop-esque effect applied. The effects are truly astounding, with the outcome being one hell of a good track. It all comes together in one sweet build-up, with more sampled vocals, layered synths and soundscapes galore.
'Expect' is next up, and this is where the image of water, waterfalls and rivers really come to mind. Acab opens with a soft sound of running water and a delayed synthesizer riff. The track trickles on and suddenly blast with a simplistic beat. It's slow, it's smooth and it's bloody good. The bass is distorted and fuzzy, with everything else curved perfectly with reverb and delay. The sampled vocals are a standout here, with some sort of 'chorus' attached. It becomes glitchy with a few off beats, but the fuzzed up bass keeps everything grounded. Towards the end of this track, a brilliant string loop can be heard. This mixes with the now fast paced beat to create a melancholy, techno like finale of a track.
Half way into Balam Acab's album comes one of the most beautiful tracks of 2011, 'Now Time'. It opens with a lovely keyboard riff which is looped, of course. The vocal loop uses a very heavy reverb with several layers. You can hear ,any soundscapes including bird noises, water and a fire? The bass kicks in which is one of the heaviest on the album. The little two minute build-up comes to a beautiful middle section with strings, vocal, some soundscapes and the keyboard riff taking focus. This is relaxing music and my, am I relaxed listening to this. The bass and beat enter yet again to close this track off, with the synths and strings hitting the final notes. The next track is also, a fantastic one. 'Oh, Why' has a vocal sample, which loops the words "oh, why". Oh yes, check out that quote. So Oh, Why has many similarities to Now Time, but instead of the reverberated keyboard riff, this time there’s a presentable piano riff instead. This looped riff is far more radio friendly and much more melodic. The vocals continue to impress me, with the pitch shift coming into effect on almost every sample. The electronic drum pattern is the most enjoyable one on the album, with the hand claps ringing with beauty and the bass pounding to an extreme level. Acab has found his place with this track. The shoegaze like soundscape shriek on the left side mixes with the hard hitting bass, the high pitched vocal and the synth samples, this is beautiful music. It's over before you know it, with the track fading out suddenly. The loop 'oh, why' comes back for the close and I wonder.. Why?!!?! This could be so much longer. Nonetheless, a great track by Balam Acab.
'Await' has all the bubbly sounds and soundscapes as every other track. I don't appreciate the rhythm as much as some of the other tracks because it lacks character. The keyboard riff on the left isn't that loud, which makes way for all the soundscapes in the middle. It's not long before a vocal sample enters and the string samples come in to add all the beauty the opening minute was lacking. The final half of this track is a bass heavy, downtempo, waterfall.. Watery mash-up of reverberated vocals and reverse bass. This water continues, as the final track 'Fragile Hope' enters. Breathing drops of water and a very sporadic synth loop form up the first minute and a half. Volume knobs are increased and the track slowly lifts off. The opera-esque vocal samples enter and the water slowly stops.. Preserve the environment Acab!! The secluded bass kicks in. This time, it has no fuzz, the beat has no clapping, the vocals are far slower, mature and easy going, this is an intense closing few minutes. The claps come in, the sound opens up and further female vocals enter. Another fade out occurs and the samples slowly stop. And that's the album finished.
Balam Acab's debut is a mix between the samples and the effects. He's positioned everything perfectly, with every sample playing its part in one way or another. The lo-fi sound is nothing but history, as Acab uses water samples to enhance the downtempo, relaxing atmosphere he thrives off. This music isn't for dancing, nor is it for a summer day. It's a slow, calming album with beautiful textures, samples, loops and ambiance. Has he alienates his early fans with this release? Maybe.. Maybe, but he's certainly improved his finishing touch and his song structure. He does not stand above anyone in this genre of music; he calmly sits below the water instead.