From the Mouth of the Sun: Hymn Binding
Lost Tribe Sound

Not to take anything away from Dag Rosenqvist, but the star of this particular show is Aaron Martin, or should I say Aaron Martin's cello. Sure, other sounds—piano, guitar, lap steel, banjo, ukulele, and pump organ, among them—appear on Hymn Binding, the duo's third album as From the Mouth of the Sun (and first for Lost Tribe Sound), but it's the arresting sound of Martin's cello that mesmerizes most. The Topeka, Kansas-based artist's introduction to the instrument came at seventeen, and subsequent college study grew into a recording career that's witnessed album releases on Preservation, Experimedia, Preserved Sound, and others. For his part, Rosenqvist has amassed a discography boasting some forty-plus releases, and as recently as 2013 the Gothenburg, Sweden resident issued material under his Jasper TX moniker as well as his birth name. The two formally established From the Mouth of the Sun in 2011 and a year later issued the debut album Woven Tide and the follow-up Into the Well in 2015.

For anyone unfamiliar with the earlier releases, From the Mouth of the Sun traffics in a refined, electro-acoustic blend of modern classical, ambient, drone, and experimental music forms. Electronics, if used, are handled discreetly, so much so that the predominating feel of Hymn Binding is analogue. Martin's soul-stirring cello makes its mournful presence felt thirty seconds into the recording when it rises over a cresting haze during “A Healer Hidden,” ostensibly a two-minute appetizer to the seven tracks that follow, and, speaking of hymns, “A Breath to Retrieve Your Body” exudes a reverential grace in the melodic progression of its background chords and the supplicating expressions of the cello.

“The Last to Forgive” illustrates how central to the project Martin's playing is. With little more than simple piano chords as a foundation, the piece swells into an emotional heart-wrencher as layers of cascading strings accumulate. That approach turns out to be a template of sorts for the album, as a number of other slow-burning presentations likewise layer elaborate weaves of strings on top of simple keyboard sequences. Though the soft shimmer of electric piano chords helps distinguish “The First to Forgive” from the other settings, Martin's strings solidify the connection to the other pieces.

The impression established by the recording is of two creators painstakingly assembling each setting (even if from their respective Topeka and Gothenburg outposts) and building on each other's contributions, their sensibilities attuned to the specific property of each instrument's character and the way it functions as part of the whole. Note as well that Hymn Binding exchanges the grandiose build-ups and crushing climaxes that occasionally surface on Rosenqvist's Jasper TX albums for a more measured kind of drama. There are escalations and climaxes, to be sure, but here they're subtler, and it's not uncommon for the music to be pitched at the level of a delicate hush. Theirs, in short, is a painterly sound that nevertheless packs a punch, even if the music generally resists rising to decibel-shattering levels.

September 2017