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The Balustrade Ensemble: 'The Drowning Calm'

The Balustrade Ensemble makes music from another time, but one that never really existed. It's an imaginary world of creaky floors, dusty furniture and sepia-toned landscapes illuminated by distant strings and tinkling music boxes. The music is largely instrumental with the angelic voice of Wendy Allen, drenched in reverb, occasionally drifting in. It's a sometimes spooky world, but curious and entirely enchanting.

The Balustrade Ensemble is based in San Francisco with members involved in other, separate projects. Grant Miller is the guitarist and principal songwriter, with Scott Solter and Matt Cunitz on keys, Rich Vaughan on cello, Ryan Rosenberg on pedal steel and Wendy Allen on vocals. Scott Solter is the accompanist and engineer.

The Balustrade's music has been called "steam punk," a term used to describe a time when steam still powered everything, mixed with more futuristic elements of sci-fi and fantasy. But the band describes its sound as "an underwater haunted bird sanctuary kaleidoscope" and says they "believe listening need not be difficult to be compelling." Their debut release is Capsules on the Dynamophone label.

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