As far as cult soundtrack releases go Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was never a milestone, but it clearly had a strong effect on one experimental musician. At 23 Will Samson has built Balance out of everything he loves: Tascam 8-track cassettes, the crackly accordion music of Musette, and the kooky, intimate amnesia soundtrack from composer Jon Brion. The result is a decidedly mixed bag, and that’s even after producer Nils Frahm has worked his magic over it, coating every quiet chime in fairy dust.
With his high voice cracking like a boy who’s just lost his Lego set, and singing to twinkling guitar backgrounds, Balance is intimate to the point of farce. If you can picture Sigur Rós’ Jónsi on a sailing holiday you’ve imagined Will Samson’s sound, perhaps best exemplified by ‘Hunting Shadows’ with its ethereal synths and voices like orphaned wolf cubs. Human vocal tracks are even more twee: the gentle bass and glockenspiel of ‘Oceans are Wilder’ where Samson screeches about being ”Like crystal”, or ‘Cathedrals’ with its loose acoustic guitar as he sings about the ocean, ”The kind you swallow”. Looking for bite size post-rock gentle enough for an evening’s stargazing? You’ve come to the right place.
However, even someone with the patience of an astronomer might struggle with the schmaltz that recurs throughout Balance. Those echoey guitar nothings tug persistently at your heartstrings, and don’t always have the substance to meet the emotional highs they’re aiming for. ‘Eat Sleep Travel, Repeat’ ticks off lullaby riff/falsetto/tape hiss but also incorporates a trumpet solo, one which sounds so shy it’s like it was recorded in a library. Instrumental ‘Music For Autumn’ meanders further before allowing slow guitars to imitate Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Albatross’.
Perhaps the fact that there are no immediate standouts prove you need to be in the right mood to enjoy Balance. If rustic, wholesome guitar melodies laced with grime effects are your idea of ambient, this is going to be the most relaxing 33 minutes of your life. But for all its strange ideas - and there’s plenty, with the folktronica strings of ‘Storms Above The Submarine’ being a highlight - Balance’s compositions feel directionless, not helped by the fact that you need to be a dolphin to get what their creator is singing about.
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