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balam acab - Wander / Wonder
*Much anticipated album from the elusive Balam Acab for the Tri Angle label* Following last year's extraordinary See Birds EP - a record that has inspired legion imitators but to our knowledge no credible equals - Balam serves up his debut full-length proper on Tri Angle. From opening track 'Welcome' on in, you know you're in good hands: disembodied vocal fragments swirl like ghosts around the chambers of a sunken galleon before a sudden loop of life-affirming strings bursts brightly and alters your perspective. The American artist's brilliance lies in his ability to coax an almost liturgical drama out of loosely speaking R&B tropes, and to locate a timeless pastoral sublime in the glassy surfaces of fragmented contemporary pop: 'Expect' sounds like Virginia Astley gone hip-hop while 'Now Time' could be The Neptunes re-scored for Gavin Bryars and a chamber orchestra. Field recordings and crackle add to the sense of natural beauty, variously recalling The Caretaker, Pole, Broadcast and Boards of Canada, and even the canonical chill-out of Global Communication and The KLF. Sumptuous, psychedelic, richly melodic: Wander/Wonder is a joy to listen to, and confirms Balam Acab as a singular, exacting artist who exists in spite of, not because of, contemporary trends. Highly recommended.