Along the pathways of my stationary travels, I have not encountered an artist more mesmerizing or compelling than Aaron Martin. Centered around his singular cello, he employs a plethora of other instruments (guitar, banjo, ukulele, lap steel, concertina, singing bowls) to forge a unique sound and style with roots sunk deep in rustic earthiness yet somehow reaching boundlessly into transcendent and ethereal realms. It is as if Martin unlocks not only the resonance of his instruments, but extracts the very history and memory out of the elements from which they are made. I find his music to be ancient, timeless, and modern all at once, always moving and unfailingly pointed towards true north.
Never has this been more true than on his newest work entitled A Room Now Empty soon to be released by UK-based contemporary classical label Preserved Sound, Martin’s first full-length solo record since the sublime Comet’s Coma (Eilean Rec., 2014). Soon listeners will be able to revel in its stark, intimate beauty and be shaken by its soul-deep, melancholic yearning. In the meantime, Stationary Travels is very pleased to present this interview provided courtesy of Preserved Sound & Hayden Berry in which Aaron talks about how the layered meanings in the music and titles of the album and how they don’t allow one clear-cut reading of the music.
A Room Now Empty will be available on limited edition CD on January 29. The album was mastered by Ian Hawgood and features artwork by Paw Grabowski (aka øjeRum) with whom Martin recently collaborated on a record entitled Needleshaped Silence.
A return to memory-based music
Hello Aaron. Could you introduce yourself?
I was born in Denver, Colorado, but I’ve lived all over the US, and currently reside in Topeka, Kansas. I started playing guitar as a kid in Pennsylvania and decided to learn cello when I was in high school. I took lessons and performed with a local youth orchestra. This led to my decision to study cello at college. Before I graduated, I started to explore the idea of composing and also recording my own music, and I’ve dedicated my focus to this pursuit ever since. I also regularly collaborate with other musicians, most notably Dag Rosenqvist , for our project From the Mouth of the Sun. Dag and I recently finished our first film score for Menashe , which was released by A24 in 2017.
You’re just about to release a new solo album A Room Now Empty. Is there any particular concept to the album?
A Room Now Empty is similar to the concept of Day Has Ended where Christoph Berg and I created music to encompass the passing of a day, but stretched out for the passing of a lifetime or at least a portion of a lifetime. The music is a return to memory-based recordings, as well, like I explored heavily with my three albums for Preservation (Almond , River Water and Chautauqua ). However, I tried to layer meanings in the music and titles, so that a single clear-cut reading of the music isn’t possible. The cover image Silent Figure with Landscape LIX by øjeRum evokes both the fear and the wonder of emptiness.
How is ‘A Room Now Empty’ different to your other albums?
I utilized more effects than I usually do for my solo work for this album. There are also more tracks and sections of tracks that are made up of only cello arrangements. I tried to keep the same intimacy and directness of my other albums, but the slightly more processed sound creates a bit of distance, similar to watching a figure move just below the surface of the water, obscured into new shapes. In general, I try not to take a rigid approach to any of the projects that I am involved with, other than the goal to do my best work. I was trying to achieve something that would be memorable and cohesive – and during that process, the quality that defines this album began to emerge.
Could you briefly talk about the way in which you record?
For my solo work, I like to take as much time as I need to focus on the work without exact deadlines in mind. Other than mastering, I am responsible for every other aspect of the music itself, so I put a lot of thought into that process. I try to allow for an approach that is both focused and open to moments of spontaneity. Because of this, pieces of music can develop in a number of different ways – an initial concept or structural arc, a melody, or simply sitting down with an instrument and starting from scratch. I recorded A Room Now Empty at home using cello, electric guitar, bass, roll up piano, banjo, concertina, acoustic guitar, voice, ukulele, singing bowls and lap steel. I would like to acknowledge and thank Ian Hawgood for his care in mastering the album.
More by Aaron Martin (a selection from the past 5 years)
Illuminations II charity compilation (Dronarivm, 2018)
“Roads” by From the Mouth of the Sun (w/ Dag Rosenqvist)
Hymn Binding (Lost Tribe Sound, 2017)
“I can still hear the humming of life” (w/Leonardo Rosado)
In the dead of night when everything is asleep (Fluid Audio, 2016)
“A Pulse Passes From Hand to Hand I” (w/ Jeremy Young)
A Pulse Passes From Hand to Hand (White Paddy Mountain, 2015)
“Lost to Light”
Comet’s Coma (Eilean Rec., 2014)
“Slow Wake” (from a split w/ Christoph Berg)
Day Has Ended (Dronarivm, 2013)