Aaron Martin – ‘Chautauqua’

December 30, 2009 § Leave a comment

Published: The Age, A2, 48 Hours, December 26, 2009.

Aaron Martin
Chautauqua
(Preservation/Inertia)

Since he emerged from Topeka, Kansas, Aaron Martin’s rickety instrumentals have read like a personal chronicle of a decaying Midwest. The young composer’s beauteous 2007 debut Almond and harrowingly personal 2008 opus River Water were melanges of unlikely materials, approaches and place, drawing on children’s toys, household objects and field recordings as a foil for his cello, banjo and organ-based compositions. Third album Chautauqua sees Martin reduce his instrumental and compositional palette to its most elemental hues. Cello and organ take centre stage here; Martin colours his wiry motifs with a mere clutch of vocal drones and scenes from his family’s home movie recordings. The results are startling, affronting in their sheer personal candour. New Madrid is perhaps Martin’s most realised sketch yet; its squall of strings, textures and layered voices opening out into a lilting, shimmering drone. Located somewhere between contemporary composition, rusty American folk and postmodernist collage, Chautauqua isn’t always the easiest of listens. It is, however, Martin’s most exposing and perhaps rewarding yet.

DAN RULE

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