On their 2012 debut, Ice Level, Brooklyn-based Ava Luna's songs often suffocated under the weight of their own composition. Busy and sharp with conflicting instruments, arrangements, and voices, the album's cluttered approach to avant funk was chaotic, teetering at times on the verge of incoherence. Electric Balloon strips away much of the confusion of Ava Luna's chaotic debut, while keeping its astute sense of song construction, resulting in a much more accessible and enjoyable listen. Reference points to late-'70s downtown N.Y.C. no wave, avant disco, and skronky futuristic funk are still rampant in Ava Luna's sound, apparent straight away on opening track "Daydream," a high-energy amalgam of Contortions-esque guitar stabs, early Talking Heads-era David Byrne yelping vocals, and even a blaring sax solo near the end that could have easily fit on any DNA track. The slinky, stumbling riff of "Sears Roebucks M&Ms" calls to mind ESG's confident mutant dance rhythms and wobbly trance-like vocal lines. The band relies far less on the complexly charted vocal harmonies that made up much of Ice Level, offering up minimal, focused performances most of the time. When the group harmonies do reappear, they show up with an incredibly expanded amount of space, as on the skeletal, barely there groove of "Genesee." B-52s-esque melodies burn through the title track, Liquid Liquid rhythms appear throughout, and, on the sultry, quiet storm-styled "PRPL," Ava Luna even revisit some of the early-2000s mainstream R&B influences they explored previously, with far less superfluous instrumentation getting in the way of strong performances and execution of ideas. The streamlining does much for the album, giving the songs enough space to let their varied and often contrasting influences meld nicely with the band's unique visions.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas