Balam Alcab – Wander/Wonder review

Balam Alcab, the delicately crafted brainchild of a 20 year old college student, debuted an aptly titled full-length album August 30, Wander/Wonder. The whimsy and disregard of traditional album trajectory contribute to a feeling of not only wandering but floating. Down a river, through the clouds, past the time-space continuum, wherever you want to be this album can take you there – slowly.

The sound is surprisingly sophisticated for somebody with hardly two decades of life to his name. Wander/Wonder has an ethereal feel that gives you the sense it’s been always festering in a locked away place, and like Arthur’s sword, only Alec Koone understood its mystery fully enough to release it. The wetness throughout gives a sense of a primordial being emerging for the first time on land, or crawling back in utero for the coziest of hibernations.

That between place, of neither birth nor death but kind of both hangs in the air upon listening. This album is often two places at once, but there is no middle ground for Balam Alcab. The music would be best enjoyed one of two ways: throwing it on, smoking a joint and having sex before bed, allowing it to hang as a backdrop. Or you could just as easily press play, roll a joint and listen hard to every nuance that sounds like a little gift. Intelligent listeners will indeed feel as though they were the ones to unlock the sound, as each track is personal, secretive and satisfyingly low-key.

The most solid chunk lies in the late middle section. Expect leads into Now Time followed by Oh, Why leaving you in a comparative whirlwind of unexpected string instrumentation, bottom dropping percussion, and a Harajuku angel singing aloft from a cloud over the recording studio. Just when it appears the bass disintegrates to make room for something lighter, it swoops in with a vengeance on Fragile Hope. The whole affair will wrap you in a fluffy down blanket of existential crises, wondering Oh, why why why…why can’t I?
Ambient without feeling morose, Balam Alcab’s Wander/Wonder will be a joy to Panda Bear fans, stoners, and intrepid musical explorers everywhere.

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