Back in 2011, critics believed to have found an early, Burial-inspired Noah Lennox somewhere in between the ghostly samples and hefty beats of Balam Acab’s debut on Tri Angle records. But continuing on this path was not of interest to the Pennsylvanian artist. He ignored the pressure from labels to release, and instead went on his own journey; attending college, starting a long-term relationship, making music with his friends and, well, growing up.
Since then he’s self-released a ton of music, including many collaborations (randomest of which is probably his 2013 official remix of Charli XCX’s “Nuclear Seasons”), always maintaining his strong creative identity and genre-melding capabilities.
Just Bliss Right Now is a collaboration with Healing Language, an audiovisual artist who makes a hyper-defined, ultra-saturated, and weird Youtube show called Geezer Gus.
Balam Acab’s particular creative energy is complemented by Healing Language’s crystalline and synth-rich style (as well as some trippy clips) in this lush and emotive short EP full of glistening strings, psychedelic synths, glitchy vocals and bright, glassy ambient — a perfect soundtrack for an enveloping walk through a fairy-filled forest.
You can tell that Balam Acab remains influenced by his BΔLΔM ΔCΔB witch-house related origins and the microgenre culture that characterized that era. He has typically combined a witch house style with light psychedelic moods, trip-hop-leaning beats and rich ambience, but this release is significantly lighter, more optimistic, and propagates deep happiness and bliss. Part of that is due to the fact that Healing Language did all the drums and synthwork for the EP, so the beats are more piercing than hefty, and the atmosphere more magical than spooky.
Dense strings, energy-full crescendos and lo-fi grittiness give Just Bliss Right Now a very instrumental feel, one that draws on the music Balam Acab loves and grew up listening to– noise, drone, post-rock. It’s actually interesting how little this album seems inspired by any previous electronic influences. It sounds like electronic music by someone who has never really listened to electronic music outside of Animal Collective and maybe Flying Lotus. It’s psychedelic, ambient and borderline indie sustained by a heavy, glitchy electronic beat that occasionally comes in forceful and sharp.
Soothing, devotional singing is sprinkled in; muffled, lofi, and most expressive in the beautiful and climactic “God’s Will” (the vibe of the vocals is so similar to Black Moth Super Rainbow that I had to make sure neither Balam Acab nor Healing Language had been involved with them. They hadn’t, but turns out they’re all from Pennsylvania!).
Maybe the EP would have benefitted from a little less melodic cohesion, an expansion on the atonal aspects of “Bedridden.” But for 20 minutes, the cohesion and lushness are quite satisfying. Maybe the repetition and cohesion of simpler chords and melodies are what allow it to sound so gentle and clear despite the lushness. ‘Just Am’ for example, is so sweet and pretty, even when the beat and synths shake the gentle ground beneath it.
But perhaps the most stimulating stylistic choice of the EP, and the most idiosyncratic Balam Acab move, is its preoccupation with the multiform sound of water. “Slopped and wetted” is how Balam Acab has described his weighty, liquid ambient sound in the past. In Just Bliss Right Now, the slopped is dropped and the wetted is elevated, with ever-present liquid sounds taking on a more airy and less heavy form to reflect bliss and joy. By the end of “Changed” you can’t tell if what you’re hearing are trickling water droplets, colliding crystals or chirping birds and fairies in the magical forest of Just Bliss Right Now.