If the name Eszter Balint doesn’t ring a bell, if you’re a regular viewer of Louie CK’s acclaimed series Louie, you’ll remember her as his character’s love interest Amia last season. In addition to being an actress, though — she’s appeared in films by Jim Jarmusch, Woddy Allen, and Steve Buscemi — the Hungarian-born Balint is an accomplished musician, and has played on albums by Marc Ribot, Angels of Light, and Swans. As you can tell, she’s clearly highly regarded by some of the biggest talents in two different mediums.
Her new album Airless Midnight is her first since 2004’s Mud, and PopMatters is pleased to premiere it here. Featuring appearances by Ribot and Sam Phillips, Balint, who plays guitar, mandolin, violin, and more, creates an eclectic collection of songs, but retains a remarkable consistent tone and theme throughout.
“There’s not a concrete or literal ‘concept’ behind this album per se, but a feeling which binds it all together, for sure,” Balint tells PopMatters. “There was this one funny moment, when I was reviewing the words of all these songs and went, ‘Oh. I see. So this record is about death. Okay, well then.’ It was never an agenda at the outset, nor was it an agenda to adhere to once I realized what was at work. Yet it did set a tone, a palette to work from. Also, it feels like a collection of stories. That’s what really resonates for me with this: a group of stories, which are connected, some more, some less, but they all somehow stumbled into this exact collection for a reason.”
Alternately sultry, playful, and visceral, the album veers from singer-songwriter contemplation to percussive intensity that hints at a Swans influence, with Balint’s distinct persona bringing it all together. Beautifully produced by bassist JD Foster, Airless Midnight is the perfect soundtrack to a dusky summer night, be it sweltering or stormy. Give it a listen, and lose yourself in her strange world.
Airless Midnight will be released 10 July on Red Herring/eOne.