Young experimental punk trio Balaclavas are part of the reason 2007 was a banner year for Houston indie rock. Released separately, last year's Balaclavas and Inferno EPs are close enough in tone, sound and time to effectively be two parts of a full-length record; together, they're among the more strikingly unusual releases from a scene that has recently produced a good deal of remarkable music. Both EPs are hard and raw, as are many Houston releases, but where their peers favor density and directness, Balaclavas' music is spacious and obscure. Like the Minutemen's D. Boon and Mike Watt or Joy Division/New Order's Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook, guitarist Tyler Morris and bassist Brian Harrison maintain a rigorous, almost ideological sonic separation between their instruments. Morris's guitar stabs, echoes and warbles, but never crunches, while Harrison uses so little attack that his liquid basslines can be difficult to discern without headphones. Drummer Charles Patranella, for his part, plays nimbly and cleverly, but not loudly. Plenty of space is left for Morris's surprisingly authoritative voice and a gloomy, almost gothic mood. The pieces add up to a well-defined and singular style, and as a result, songs as different as the patient, haunting "Song Six" and the not-quite-raging "Own Me" feel nevertheless like parts of the same artistic vision, held together by something dark and menacing, yet seductive.
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