If you have ever driven out west, perhaps en route to the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, or Marfa, you may have breezed through Balmorhea, home to the famous spring-fed pool. Balmorhea is a small place that was once a boomtown. But these days it’s home to fewer than 500 people. It’s also the namesake of a Texas musical duo that has won over fans and critics over the past 15 years with soundscapes that defy easy categories.
Balmorhea’s new album is titled “The Wind.”
The band’s instrumental music has been favorably reviewed on NPR, and also used by the network as interstitial music for its radio broadcasts. But it’s far from mere background, or passive-listening music.
Rob Lowe and Michael A. Muller founded Balmorhea. They have made music together starting at a summer camp in the Texas Hill Country.
Lowe told Texas Standard that mystique of the the remote, former boomtown resonated with him and Muller when they were naming their group.
“It very much felt like being in that physical space, with those dimensions, the spring-fed pool and the view of the Davis Mountains and the isolation – desert – but also some form of community that was built there; it just felt right,” Lowe said.
Muller and Lowe worked on the new album at a house on the Llano River, and used sound from the environment in the mix of some of the songs.
“We tried to capture the sound of the main living room there, where we write and play,” Muller said.
“In the loose narrative that we have, kind of structuring the album, there really is a departure taking place at the beginning of the album, and kind of like the beginning of a journey, I guess,” Lowe said.
On the track, “La Vagabonde,” Muller and Lowe took inspiration from climate activist Greta Thunberg’s visit to the United States.
“[Thunberg] had decided that she was going to take a vessel back to Europe, rather than fly,” Lowe said. “And so, her energy, and the way she thinks about the world is an inspiration to us, and we felt like it embodied the energy that we had captured in that song.”
“The boat she took was named ‘La Vagabonde,'” Muller said.
Muller says the journey represented by the album is a round trip, bookended by tracks that evoke a similar place. Of the album as a whole he said, “It’s kind of the antithesis of a concrete concept, but there’s kind of just these ideas of movement and progression and kind of challenging the status quo, and just embarking on something new and being alive.”
“There’s something that we really believe in about music’s ability to communicate and translate certain feelings, thoughts or ideas that you can’t really put into words,” Lowe said. “And so, really, it’s a musical expression that we’re making.”
“The Wind” was released April 9 by Deutsche Grammophon.