Band of the Week: Balam Acab

Ever since first hearing the beginning of Balam Acab’s “See Birds (Moon)” back in mid-2010, music lovers have been anticipating the (at the time) nineteen-year-old electronic producer’s first releases. His first release, See Birds EP, marked the beginning of an impressive journey for both himself and for his label, Tri Angle Records, for whom it was also the first release. His See Birds EP was dark and moody with fragmented vocals and strong beats, and it asily won over many critics.

Now it’s 2011, Koone is twenty, and his debut full-length album has just been released. Compared to See Birds, the music is softer, lighter, and more organic. Instead of repeating single vocal lines throughout the course of the song, Koone opted instead to lift entire vocal parts out of Creative Commons-licensed songs. Heavy, distorted beats are replaced by chopped up samples of dripping water. Songs on Wander/Wonder frequently start with minute-long introductions that are so quiet you may think there’s a problem with your music device at first, as opposed to tracks on See Birds that keep the same mood for the entire duration of the song. Another significance difference in the perceived maturity of Wander/Wonder is the decision to mix in stereo instead of the previously-used mono.

Make no mistake, though; Wander/Wonder is characteristically Balam Acab. Instrumental samples are set behind sounds of water, heavy bass lines, and lighter beats. Songs drag on at abnormally slow tempos, as if allowing time to listen closely to each layer before the next beat hits. Vocal lines are pitch-shifted and slowed down then hidden in the mix until they no longer sound human-produced. Following suit from his previous EP, vocals are used simply for melody; none of the lyrics are discernible, but they aren’t important in the context of the songs anyway.

The entire album is computer-generated. During production, Koone sat in his parents’ bedroom and spent hours looking for field recordings, vocal lines, and instruments to sample on websites like ccMixter. Despite this, the album is beautiful and organic and with an underlying tone of longing. Feelings of heartache are amplified during the rare occasion you can make out lyrics, like in “Motion” when the line “do you still love me?” is repeated.

This is not the type of album that produces consumer-friendly hits, although tracks like “Now Time” and “Oh, Why” will easily fit into a variety of radio shows. Instead, Wander/Wonder is an art piece that will reward those that listen intently. Headphones or a good speaker system are a must. New sounds and layers are noticed upon repeated listens. For many critics, Wander/Wonder will be one of the best albums of 2011. Don’t let the hype distract you from listening because you’ll be missing out on some of the most beautiful music that’s been released this year.

<3,
Kelsie

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Welcome to KZUU 2011-2012!

Welcome to the 2011-2012 school year at KZUU! We are stoked for our returning DJs to get back to their shows and for our new DJs to learn the ropes and begin their journey here. This is an exciting year for KZUU since we have so many new DJs (over 30!) and we have a lot of fun things planned over the course of the year.

To get things started on the blog this year, we asked everyone on management to write about their favorite song of the summer. Consider this your introduction to this year’s management team!

Andi (General Manager):

Gardens & Villa – “Black Hills”. I really connected with these guys when I went on tour this summer to the East Coast with my boyfriend’s band. They were stunning live, with the bamboo flutes and all. Gardens & Villas’ new self-titled album became the soundtrack to my crazy summer; always picking me up. If you haven’t heard this album it is currently located in the preview rack and I would HIGHLY suggest giving it a spin.

Josh (Program Director):

Yuck – “Milkshake”. I mean come on is this really a surprise that it would be my favorite song? Yuck already struck a chord last year for me with their post-modern revival sound on their debut, and this song featured on their new 7” adds the perfect summer flavor. Somewhere between the bent strings in that opening riff and the first uttering of “you’re making a milkshake of my mind,” I felt compelled to find my old high school hoodie, hop on a bike and ride around town at sunset.

Adam (Music Director):

The Bilinda Butchers – “Tulips”. Super hazy dream pop by a couple of teenagers who took their name from the famous My Bloody Valentine singer/guitarist. There’s something inherently “summer” about the repeating guitar sample and the washy, subdued synth chords and programmed drums.

Brennan (Assistant Music Director):

Sun Airway – “Wild Palms”. This is the only track that catered to my summer work depression. With glitchy orchestra pop and blissful vocals, it’s a track that made Pullman not so far away after all.

Kelsie (Assistant Music Director):

Balam Acab – “Oh, Why”. Beautiful sample-based music from this 20-year-old producer. Sounds of water and footsteps underneath pitch-shifted vocals set the tone for Balam Acab’s debut LP.

Bryce (Hip Hop Director):

Sam Lachow – “Brand New Bike”. The next big thing from Seattle, amazingly talented and definitely the front runner for best hip-hop albums of 2K11. Officially my anthem for the summer. All original live instument production, no samples were used. Turn this up and roll the windows down; it’s summertime.

Kyle (Assistant Hip Hop Director)

Monika (Loud Rock Director):

Nick 13 – “Carry My Body Down”. This is Nick 13’s self-titled album from Sugar Hill Records. It reminds me of one of my favorite Tiger Army songs “In The Orchard”. If you didn’t already know this, Nick 13 is the front man for Tiger Army. Tiger Army is one of the bands that made me love psychobilly. Listen to this track… it’s for everyone… it’s got a little bit of everything.

Thomas (Jazz Director)

Have an amazing Fall 2011 semester!

Kelsie & everyone on management

KZUU 2011 In-studios

KZUU has had the privilege of hosting several bands in-studio for interviews and performances. Here’s the audio for each interview so far in 2011 in case you missed them on air! You can also stream each interview on Soundcloud.

Colleen Green – March 10, 2011

MP3: Colleen Green – Cujo (live acoustic on KZUU)
MP3: Colleen Green – Worship You (live acoustic on KZUU)

Bella Ruse – July 10, 2011

MP3: Bella Ruse – Complicated Rhythm (live acoustic on KZUU)
MP3: Bella Ruse – The Kazoo Song (live acoustic on KZUU)
MP3: Bella Ruse – Sea Love (live acoustic on KZUU)

Sera Cahoone – July 28, 2011 (interview only)

Candy Claws – August 6, 2011

MP3: Candy Claws – Catamaran (live acoustic on KZUU)
MP3: Candy Claws – Snowflake Eel Wish (live acoustic on KZUU)
MP3: Candy Claws – Lantern Fish (live acoustic on KZUU)