Balún & Salt Cathedral
6:30pm doors • 7:30pm show
Transnational Brooklyn electronic indie band Balún is legendary for their decade-long odyssey of transformational genre-reinvention. Originally breaking out of San Juan’s DIY hardcore punk scene, the group has absorbed styles as far-ranging as contemporary classical, Puerto Rican folk, and IDM to craft a musical language that has led NPR to praise the band as “masterful rhythm manipulators” with “ethereal and beguiling vocals”. After a set blending ambient, trip-hop, and Colombian dance culture from the internationally acclaimed Salt Cathedral — whose breakout single has already racked up ten million plays on Spotify — Balún will play an evening of captivating songs from their latest album in this unforgettable evening of stylistic transcendence.
Brooklyn-based electronic indie band Balún self-identifies as transnational. The quartet that broke out of the San Juan indie scene a decade ago has since undergone a formational odyssey through the music industry, academia, and the stateside Puerto Rican experience. Balún’s long-awaited sophomore album Prisma Tropical fuses an incredibly wide field of genres and influences into a revelatory sound that evokes both of the band’s homes, as well as 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 a national tour 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 into world-class musicians merging their far-flung disciplines under one banner. Vocalist and songwriter Negrón is a classically trained and New York Philharmonic–commissioned composer, bassist Ruiz is a Puerto Rican folk music expert with a PhD in ethnomusicology, and Olivares is a technology educator and pioneering beat maker. With these elements beginning to coalesce, the band perpetually expanded its vision over the ensuing years. Releasing a series of singles, EPs, and official remixes, Balún explored shoegaze, folk, and bedroom electronic pop, tying these forays together with 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 has forged a focused identity on Prisma Tropical that touches nearly every corner of music.
Those familiar with 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. 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”.
The second single from Prisma Tropical, “Teletransporte”, accomplishes a similar synthesis of musical approaches, but this time as an expression of the band’s New York roots. Incorporating the sounds of grime, jungle and IDM for a more northern Atlantic perspective, the result evokes the harsh, urban New York winter. Conceived as vehicle to bring grime into the pop world, Negrón’s Björk-inspired strings and Olivares’ robotic percussion succeed in transforming a rather sparse arrangement into a cinematic and engrossing journey through another dimension. “Teletransporte”, like “La Nueva Ciudad” before it, stakes out new sonic territory, but the end result is unmistakably Balún.
Salt Cathedral comprises Juliana Ronderos and Nicolas Losada. Influenced by tropical sounds and channeling the liveliness and dance culture of the pair’s Colombian upbringing, their music combines elements of trip-hop and ambient genres with folkloric influences from many cultures, resulting in a new and unique brand of well-crafted and culturally relevant pop music.
The duo has released three EPs and six singles, including their most recent single “Rude Boy”. They will release their debut full-length record in 2019. Not only have they garnered nearly twenty-five million streams on Spotify (including nearly ten million for their single “Always There When I Need You”) and thousands of fans from all over the world, their music has also been featured in prestigious music publications such as the Guardian, Pitchfork, FADER, VICE, Billboard, Consequence of Sound, and the Village Voice.
They perform extensively, with over two hundred and fifty shows across the United States, Japan, Canada, France, Switzerland, and Colombia under their belt. They have shared the stage with fellow artists Hundred Waters (Skrillex‘s OWSLA), Christine and the Queens, Anna Wise (Kendrick Lamar), Jojo Mayer’s NERVE, Tei Shi, Young and Sick, and Cibo Matto, amongst many others. Onstage, the band combines live instrumentals, electronics, and choreographed lighting to create an immersive environment of “crackling energy” (Pitchfork).
Salt Cathedral’s upcoming single is “Go and Get It”, featuring Big Freedia and Jarina De Marco.