Album of the Day: Aaron Martin, “Touch Dissolves”

With its ability to deliver both thick melodic lines as well as enveloping harmonies, the cello is a natural choice for artists looking to create a mood of tranquility.  Over the course of his recording career, Aaron Martin’s knack for using the instrument to generate mournful tones, disquieting harmonic undercurrents, and the unwinding of melodies has opened up a world of nuance to a series of striking solo pieces.

That being said, there’s an argument to be made that Martin’s signature works are his collaborations. His duo From the Mouth of the Sun with Dag Rosenqvist, and his contribution to the Dronarivm release Day Has Ended with Christoph Berg, are prime examples of the ways chamber instrumentalism and electronic effects can peacefully coexist. Martin’s newest, Touch Dissolves, is a different type of creative partnership, one that incorporates both a solo perspective and sympatico connection. The sixth installment of the IIKKI label’s duet series pairs Martin’s cello with the photographs of Yusuf Sevinçli. Sevinçli’s work captures the transformation of images from sharp reality to the ephemeral presence of dream. Similarly, Martin’s instrumentation traces the slow dissipation of a distinct and present melody into thick harmonic clouds that slowly drift away.

And as it was on Martin’s 2018 release A Room Now Empty, the breadth of instrumental expressionism expands far beyond just the reach of his cello, ranging from roll-up piano to concertina to guitar to glockenspiel. The instrument’s sounds may differ, but they all create a similar state of serenity. The gentle downpour of bells from a singing bowl on “A Child’s Arms Are Moonlight” provides a whispering accompaniment to the cello’s swaying lullaby. The appearance of banjo on “Guarded Eyes Make Curtains Blossom” provides strong resonance, but when it’s eventually bowed, the effect brings it close to the way Martin uses the cello. In “To Stems Unclasped the Petals Cling” the twang, sparkle and sigh of lap steel, ukulele, and cello serve to both complement and contrast. Touch Dissolves is a world inside a world, where lively activity exists inside every expression of peacefulness.

-Dave Sumner

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