2017 Resident Ensembles
Brooklyn-based electronic indie band Balún self-identify as transnational. The quartet that broke out of the San Juan indie scene a decade ago has since undergone a formational odyssey through the industry, academia, and the stateside Puerto Rican experience. Balún’s long awaited sophomore album Prisma Tropical focuses an incredibly wide field of genres and influences into a revelatory sound that evokes both of the band’s homes and the distance between them.
Since their early days as part of the DIY music scene in San Juan, Balún has built a reputation for genre-fluidity. As film school and conservatory students playing every available bill and selling home-burned CDRs to electronic, hardcore, and punk crowds, Balún amassed an eclectic following on the island. A debut record on Chicago’s Brilliante label and national touring followed, but for core members Angélica Negrón, Noraliz Ruiz and José Olivares, the pull of New York and new musical directions proved too strong.
Relocating to Brooklyn, the band’s pursuits outside of Balún began reshaping the context of their music. As evident on Prisma Tropical, Balún has blossomed from college students making music on freeware and toy instruments to include a NY Philharmonic commissioned composer, a PhD ethno-musicologist and Puerto Rican folk music expert, and a pioneering underground beat maker. Perpetually expanding its vision, the band released a series of singles, EPs and official remixes exploring shoegaze, folk, and bedroom electronic pop, tied together by the introspective magical-realism of Negrón’s lyrics. With the more recent addition of old friend and seasoned punk guitarist Raul Reymundi, and under the guidance of percussionist and producer Lawson White (Jamie XX / Gil Scott-Heron, Chromeo, Ben Folds, David Lang), Balún’s component pieces now touch nearly every corner of music.
Those familiar with the rich legacy of Caribbean music will immediately peg the first single La Nueva Ciudad as unmistakably Puerto Rican. Heavy doses of tiple, bomba barrel drum, and dembow work alongside loops and layers of shimmering synths to accomplish something explicitly of the island, yet fluent in the language of global pop. Those familiar with Balún’s earlier work might be surprised by the pervasiveness of those two particular elements given the band’s early lo-fi, electronic ethos. Yet while Prisma Tropical moves into new sonic territory, the end result is unmistakably Balún. Incorporating new elements with the same dexterity as they always have, the band’s deep understanding of reggaeton’s Jamaican dancehall roots has transformed their shoegaze pop into “dreambow.” Viewing Puerto Rico from New York, through the prism of the wider musical world, Balún’s passage from one to the other has led to an inextricable embrace of both.
Brooklyn Art Song Society
The Brooklyn Art Song Society (BASS) will enter its seventh season of first-rate music making in the Fall of 2016, having earned a reputation as one of the preeminent organizations dedicated to the vast repertoire of poetry set to music. The New York Times called BASS “a company well worth watching” and Voce di Meche hailed, “as long as BASS is around we do not need to worry about the future of art song in the USA.” Opera News writes, “Brooklyn Art Song Society keeps the intimate recital alive with innovative programming.” Past highlights have included performances of the complete songs of Charles Ives and Henri Duparc, a festival of works from Franz Schubert’s last year, a five-concert survey of the songs of Les Six, and the complete output of Hugo Wolf over six seasons. Committed to keeping art song relevant in our time BASS has collaborated closely with important living composers such as Tom Cipullo, Herschel Garfein, Daron Hagen, Jake Heggie, Libby Larsen, Lowell Liebermann, James Matheson, Scott Wheeler and Yehudi Wyner, and has commissioned works from up-an-coming composers Michael Djupstrom, Marie Incontrera, and Andrew Staniland. In May 2015 BASS released its first album, New Voices on Roven Records, which debuted in the top 10 on the Billboard Traditional Classical charts. Highlights from this season include the five-concert series Wien, an exploration of Vienna’s cultural landscape from 1890-1945, BASS’s debut at National Sawdust with In Context: Jake Heggie, and world premieres by Tom Cipullo and Glen Roven. In addition to monthly concerts in Brooklyn, BASS has traveled to Philadelphia, Kansas City, Portland, ME and held residencies at University of Notre Dame and University of Chicago. Brooklyn Art Song Society is proud to make the Brooklyn Historical Society its new primary venue starting in the 2016-2017 season. BASS’s artist roster features over 30 of the finest young interpreters of art song. For more information visit www.brooklynartsongsociety.org.