Balún is an indie band from Brooklyn by way of San Juan whose smart, joyous music is framed by the stateside Puerto Rican perspective. They beat the music journalists at their own game when they came up with “dreambow,” a portmanteau of “dreampop” and “dembow,” to describe their airily propulsive sound: a bespoke version of reggaeton that is soft, supple, and deeply imprinted with global pop styles.
Though it took a decade after their debut, Balún’s 2018 record, Prisma Tropical, was widely regarded as worth the wait. Instruments such as the tiple (a kind of Colombian guitar) and the barrel drums of bomba, the first uniquely Puerto Rican musical form, melt into brilliant rainbows of electronic pop. Singer Angélica Negrón—a noted young composer for robots and toys who has been commissioned by the likes of Kronos Quartet and Bang on a Can—spins new lengths onto the rich tapestry of Latin American magical realism.
Prisma Tropical was chosen as one the best records of 2018 by NPR, while Rolling Stone named it one of the ten best Latin albums of the year, noting that it had made Balún an “overnight media sensation” in which “whimsy and intimacy meet power and cacophony.” (Single “La Nueva Ciudad,” a beautiful mirage shimmering between folk, R&B, and bass music, had charted in eight countries.) Meanwhile, The New York Times’ year-end list highlighted “Años Atrás,” a warm bath of percolating rhythms, string pulses, and melodious electronic glitches.