Courses of Action
While the electro-darkwave sound that Balvanera work in is very of the moment, it’s also one the Argentinian duo have been plying for half a decade. While comparisons to the undisputed leaders of the style Boy Harsher and Zanias are warranted, the music on the duo’s sophomore LP Courses of Action shows a nervier and more anxious edge that pushes up against the borders of synthpunk in energizing ways.
Balvanera’s modus operandi is pretty easy to discern; muscly pared down electro and body basslines matched against straight kick-snare patterns, with ghostly synth leads and desperate vocals. Opener “Medium” is about as good as a primer for the project as you could ask for – the thudding percussion and hypnotic melody suggest smoke machines and strobe lights, shot through with a tension that punches through the track’s aloof veneer. Songs like “Gleams” and “My Mind Against Me” hammer home that sense of dread and impending collapse with their use of atonal leads whirring and buzzing through the stereo spectrum.
While the sound design of the LP is consistent and at points somewhat samey, Balvanera do vary up their delivery in some intriguing ways. “New Ways” has the funk and forboding of a Belgian-styled EBM track of the variety that would birth new beat when played at the wrong RPM. “Disarray” skeletonizes the approach of the surrounding tracks down to a simple assemblage of keening pads, one simple bass figure, suggesting minimal and cold wave vibes. For my money the most notable moment on the LP is speedy closing track “¿Cuánto resiste el cuerpo?”, an upbeat EBM cut that makes the most of delayed claps and a tightly sequenced bassline to invoke funky menace.
Courses of Action does a lot of things right as an LP; it keeps things moving, explores bordering styles without losing its own sensibility and identity. With it, Balvanera have zeroed in handily on their specific approach to modern, dancefloor-appropriate darkwave.