For those who were disappointed by Múm’s growing precociousness on their latest album, or by Mus’ further abandonment of their ambient/electronica side, may I humbly suggest Balún’s While Sleeping? These three kids from Puerto Rico claim to be inspired by “Balunes,” magical little creatures that only appear at night. However, I think the more likely explanation is that these kids are inspired by 3 waifish Icelanders.
Yes, there is a very obvious Múm influence throughout these 4 songs, perhaps a bit too much at times. The similarities are bound to be obvious in any band that weaves instruments such as melodica, violin, and accordion with electronic programming and ambient synthwork. However, that doesn’t mean the songs, when judged on their own merits, aren’t good.
“I Shouldn’t Do This” is a particularly gorgeous track, at times hearkening back to the soft, dreamy swells of Finally We Are No One. However, the waves of noise that crest throughout this track, which constantly threaten to consume the organ and accordion, are truly beautiful things in their own right. Same thing for “While Sleeping,” with its fuzz-tinged guitars, kitchen sink percussion, and “Super Mario Brothers” FX.
There are definitely times when the Múm influence is far too heavy for Balún’s good, almost overwhelming the music. But the fact that their music still has plenty of its own charm says something to me. And that their first release, a 4-song EP released for free on an Internet-based label (download here), can give a trio of critical darlings a run for their money bodes well for the group. If Balún can learn to live a little further outside their influences, and maybe listen to those balunes a little bit more, than there’s quite a bit of promise in this EP just waiting to be realized.