Aaron Martin and Dag Rosenqvist seem captivated by the idea of togetherness – by the embraces that can result when strangers or genres collide. Weaving together ambient, drone and modern composition threads, the duo’s 2012 debut Woven Tide made an impression on ACL. With their third LP, From the Mouth of the Sun use the same core materials but nudge their musical craftsmanship to greater lengths, producing something simultaneously more intricate and yet, when viewed from afar, more spectacular in scope.
“Acoustic sound sources allow for chaos to be a part of the creative process, allowing for something you can never fully control.”
The intricacy of the recording process is hinted at here by Rosenqvist, who speaks of chaos at the microscopic level – the smallest adjustments of position, air pressure or temperature that affect the timbre of the duo’s predominantly acoustic arsenal. That core instrumentation remains from prior releases, meaning textural foundations of cello, piano, various guitars from electric to banjo, pump organ and lap steel. Isolated instances of glockenspiel and heavily distorted drums bleed unexpected dyes into the fabric. These voices combine to form compositional arrangements that are grand, patient and considered, each yarn biding its time before entering the fabric. Third track “The First to Forgive” best demonstrates this, starting with soft electronic tones and cello before waves of comforting guitar bring the piece toward a lulling crescendo of shiny lap steel. As the tide recedes, the faintly metallic drone of an organ is revealed submerged in the sand, to draw the piece to a close. The track’s title greeted us with open arms, and we are left in the silence that follows with the lingering warmth of a sustained embrace.
While textural and layered, the record is all the more impressive for its focused and balanced use of instruments. Individual voices are given space to impart their tales of beauty and sorrow. Martin’s cello, meandering unmistakably down faintly harmonic paths, intones a touching soliloquy above sedate piano chords in “The Last to Forgive”. A fragile acoustic guitar line emerges tentatively from the undergrowth of the sublime “Risen, Darkened” – the point at which the weave of the record becomes denser, weighed down by embroideries of scenes melancholic, opportunities escaped. “Roads” are myriad, and we must choose which to take and which to ignore. This latter piece starts with the record’s most sedate and solemn passage, although shafts of sunlight fleetingly breach its interior, and a glockenspiel joins to imbue the close with a sense of hope.
With those two tracks does Hymn Binding best show its rich tapestry of colour and texture. The record is a tired yet earnest sermon on rising and falling, and the progression of its mood mirrors this. But this is no dispiriting lesson – with track titles speaking of healing, retrieving and forgiving, the record conveys a sense of renewal, of rebuilding after what has befallen us. In a climate where every news story bespeaks a society riven by chasms between personality and ideology, Hymn Binding offers space and shelter to consider what unites us. (Chris Redfearn-Murray)