Western Vinyl; 2014
Review by Emilio Herce
It’s almost impossible to get a feel for Ava Luna’s latest release on first listen, though that’s not in anyway a bad thing. Electric Balloon is like that ostensibly cool kid at the party, whom you have yet to meet. It’s not entirely polished, but well put together, more certain about itself than most, and unafraid to express dissatisfaction or dabble in dissonance. This, and an inability to sum the album up tidily, might put you off it initially, but once you become better acquainted, you’ll discover that Electric Balloon is profound and remarkably solid. What you felt initially was jealousy, mostly for the fact that you didn’t think of it first, because Ava Luna is incredibly creative, self-assured, but most of all disarming.
I admit that my favorite parts of the album are when the band is in full strut, such as on the songs “Sears Roebuck M&M” and “Plain Speech.” These songs are slinky and slicked back, not a hair, or note out of place. The album is refreshing in large part for just this reason. Ava Luna doesn’t feel the need to fill in every empty space, and despite there being five members in it’s current iteration, the album never feels rushed or stuffy. Yes, there are moments when Electric Balloon vibrates wildly, putting you on edge, but this effect coincides with calmer moments, a hectic verse into a more staid chorus say, as on “Hold U”. Each part brings the other into sharper focus. That said, this simple interpretation of Ava Luna’s MO is insufficient. The band is a collaboration of various creative voices, each pulling in divergent directions, though never pulling the entire thing apart. Because of this, the album covers a lot of ground, from the busy bossa-nova of “Aquarium” to “Electric Balloons” slinky, new-wave cadence.
Electric Balloon is the work of a group zeroing in on its strengths, but one still unafraid to go in unexplored directions. Toward it’s latter half, the record’s tone turns to the introspective. I’m speaking specifically about “PRPL.” The song, Ava Luna’s take on a stripped down R&B, shakes off previous swank, and leaves itself wide open, which might strike you as a weakness, but showing vulnerability here is their greatest strength. This is what I meant by disarming. The record is admittedly top heavy, but the quieter songs at the end serve to anchor it. Be careful not to prejudge Ava Luna. Electric Balloon is the product of a band that may have been lead around by its self-awareness for a long time, but they’ve come to trust their gut, and are finally using this to their advantage.