Austin, Texas group Balmorhea create some beautiful, reflective music for their second full-length, "Rivers Arms." While borrowing ideas from folk, chamber music, and rock, the band forges a path that is definitely their own. Throughout the album, varying combinations of acoustic guitar, piano, violin, cello, and bass guitar weave an intoxicating instrumental tapestry. Never flashy or overblown, the music emerges nicely from start to finish.
Every song on the album is certainly pretty in its own right, but the songs I enjoyed the most were the ones that relied most on the piano for both rhythm and melody. In particular, the songs "Lament," "Baleen Morning," and "Theme No. 1" are centered around tight, repeating piano riffs that pleasantly evoke Philip Glass solo piano works. Piano aside, there are many other compelling moments on the album. Another standout is the double acoustic guitar driven track "The Summer," which is also enriched by a haunting violin part echoing in the background. Also not to be missed is the compelling and ethereal piece, "Process," which is one of the rare occurrences of electric guitar on the album, as well. It layers a light guitar melody with sustained electric guitar tones to create an otherworldly soundscape.
Altogether, there are lots of pleasant moments to discover throughout "Rivers Arms" and its well worth spending the time to find them. With the variety of styles and arrangements, there's bound to be something here that you'll latch onto instantly. Really, the whole album is filled with subtle and charming music that will keep you coming back. 7/10 -- Matt Blackall (26 February, 2008)