Jeremy Young & Aaron Martin: A Pulse Passes from Hand to Hand
White Paddy Mountain

A spring 2014 tour involving Sontag Shogun and Aaron Martin proved to be a fertile and fortuitous planting ground for this first collaborative outing between the Topeka, Kansas-based cellist and Jeremy Young that was developed in the months following the tour. The Palaver Press co-founder has established a name for himself as one-third of Sontag Shogun (Ian Temple and Jesse Perlstein the other members), which traffics in an alluring fusion of experimental sound treatments and solo piano compositions, while Martin has pursued a similarly bold approach on solo albums and collaborations with kindred spirits such as Dawn Smithson (as Winter's Day), Dag Rosenqvist (as From the Mouth of the Sun), and Christoph Berg.

Presented in three parts, the album's title track not only alludes to the transmission of energy that transpires between individuals within a live setting but also the interactions between two individuals as they collaborate from separate locations. A scan of the instrumentation involved—Young credited with tape loops, guitar, zither, brushes, whisks, and field recordings, and Martin cello, vinyl, lap steel, bowed cymbal, bowed banjo, organ, and singing bowls—offers an immediate impression of the ambient-drone soundworlds generated by the duo. Structurally, each of the four tracks starts with a tape loop culled from piano playing by Young, which is then augmented bit by bit with other elements. The repetitive lilt of that opening piano phrase imparts an hypnotic quality that's never wholly negated, even when the gradually swelling mass grows so dense the phrase is rendered almost inaudible.

Blurring into slowly congealing masses, tape-collage treatments, lilting piano melodies, field recordings, and thick cello textures figure prominently on the thirty-eight-minute recording. During the second part of the title track, Martin's cello voice moves forcefully to the forefront, though electric guitar strums, lap steel, and Young's waterlogged piano melody are also present. With echo effects worked into the production design, “Berceaux” exudes a particularly dream-like character, and of the album's two compositions, it's this one that's the more luscious and entrancing. Without wishing to take anything away from Martin's contributions, A Pulse Passes From Hand To Hand doesn't sound all that much different from what one might encounter on a Sontag Shogun release. That's certainly no cause for complaint, however, as probably anyone familiar with the trio's recordings would agree.

July-August 2015