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Wander / Wonder

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Album Review

It’s no mistake that Alec Koone uses underwater imagery for Balam Acab's album artwork. The underwater chasm that graces Wander/Wonder reflects how Koone's debut full-length is even more deeply aquatic than the See Birds EP was, as well as its subtlety and narrower focus. See Birds was just five songs long, but it covered more musical territory; by contrast, Wander/Wonder is an exercise in depth, a flowing suite of mermaid’s lullabies that turn seductive. The opening track, “Welcome,” does just that, beckoning with low tones that could be whale songs that pull the listener in until the song’s luminous heart reveals itself like a pearl in an oyster. From there, the album only becomes more feminine and enveloping — and more sensual, particularly on “Motion,” where lush strings and a sparkling melody caress sighing vocals, and on “Apart,” where the bubbly bassline reflects the R&B influence of Koone's music most clearly. Wander/Wonder is dominated by high-pitched vocals that sound like alluring aliens or sirens — “Now Time” feels like capturing an underwater beauty singing to herself in the bath — and a palette of harp, strings, and glockenspiel that, while more recognizably human than See Birds' mostly electronic tones, somehow feels stranger and more remote than the EP did. Coupled with the overwhelming intimacy of songs like “Expect,” it’s a fascinating contrast, evoking a dream world that seems tangible and elusive at the same time, until the listener is left dripping on dry land with “Fragile Hope.” Though it’s a very different journey than See Birds, Wander/Wonder is another testament to Koone’s abilities as a sensitive and evocative producer.


Born: Harrisburg, PA

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '00s, '10s

The project of Ithaca, New York’s Alec Koone, Balam Acab — named after a Mayan demigod who created rainbows by piercing clouds with arrows — began as an experimental noise project while he was still a Pennsylvania high-school student. He resuscitated the name a few years later as a music student at Ithaca College, incorporating dubstep, U.K. bass, and R&B elements into his atmospheric sounds, drawing comparisons to Grouper as well as drag/witch house artists such as Salem and White...
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Wander / Wonder, Balam Acab
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