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Bexar Bexar
(Western Vinyl)

With 1 Mile North's amazing Minor Shadows, Whips by The Wind-Up Bird, and now this disc by Bexar Bexar, it seems that great ambient music now belongs firmly in the hands of smaller labels. I'm not saying that no great ambient music came out on larger labels, but my favorite stuff from the past 12 months has arrived by way of labels that release only 5 or so titles a year.

Haralambos is probably the most electronic-sounding of the three albums mentioned in the above paragraphy. Mixing rich low-end and warm, simple keyboard melodies with plenty of guitar and some subtle beats, it's part Brian Eno, a touch Morr Music, and a good dose nostalgia (as perhaps the 70s-looking faded-photos cover art is meant to suggest). Apparently, the music of this album became a regular fixture on the NPR for awhile, and it's easy to see why. Although it's less challenging in ways than the artists mentioned above, it hits on so many perfect moments that it's hard not to enjoy.

Musically, the structure and sonic template of songs don't vary all that much from one to the next. "N.R.O.T." opens the disc with some seriously wubby low-end fluttering and lazy-day guitar strums that wash across the track like watercolor before some filtered electronics creep in and provide an offsetting melody. "KT" is nearly entirely bubbly electronics with a couple layers of delayed keyboard melodies and a quiet clicking rhythm, while "Las Cruces" is barely more than a pretty guitar melody that grows as backwards whisps filigree out from it.

"Memento Mori" drifts in as one of the best tracks on the entire disc, a slow haze of reverbed guitars and shimmering bells that recalls some of the best work by Labradford on their Mi Media Naraja album. Unlike some ambient albums in which a huge variety of angles aren't explored, Bexar Bexar is smart in keeping tracks fairly short and concise. 15 tracks run by in just about 45 minutes, and despite some songs completely blurring into others, nothing drags on for too long. A great little gem of an album.

Rating: 7.5