Monday, October 01, 2018

Balún: Sleep While Dancing

Photo by way of PopGun
I had not heard of the Puerto Rico-Brooklyn band until yesterday, when I caught this interview on the NPR program Studio 360 (which gave credit to Latino USA for the original story).

The interview centers on the construction of the band's signature "dreambow" rhythms, particularly in the band's new song El Espanta. Angélica Negrón describes what she sees as the therapeutic value of this approach. I found it both enjoyable and instructive to listened to that song a few times before returning to the interview.

The video of Balún's La Nueva Ciudad is an example of what the artists mean by dreambow, and is a perfect example of Negrón's expression "sleep while dancing." The lyrics describe a progressively more complicated metaphorical connection between the narrator and the stars, as her head, throat, and legs represent a telescope. The chorus laments a growing distance from a human subject.

The longer video "Full Episode" is instructive because viewers can watch just how careful the band is with the gradual layering of rhythms. As they sit in their hotel room, we can watch both old-school shakers and high-tech electronic drums being added in delicate increments. Negrón's use of an old-school accordion, however, reminds us that this so-modern group has deep roots in Latinx music.

Finally, the video version of Teletransporte connects the hypnotic sound to an equally hypnotic, two-dimensional geometric experience.

Lagniappe

In looking for information about the music, I found an interview with the Brooklyn musical collective PopGun Presents in the form of a listicle. Members of Balún share their five favorite Puerto Rican bands and relief organizations. (I have written elsewhere on this blog about the ongoing need for relief on what should be our 52nd state.)

That search led me to a possible origin story for the band's name. I welcome corrections from those who might actually know, but the possibility that the band is named for the electronic device balun (balance-unbalance) is too cool to ignore.

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