A Room Now Empty is a sequel of sorts to Day Has Ended, the concept of a day lengthened to that of a lifetime. On the prior album, Aaron Martin teamed with Christoph Berg; here he records solo once more, playing everything from his famous cello to singing bowls and lap steel.
Knowing that the end is coming can make the middle sweeter, or at the very least, bittersweet. The album is clear from the start that life is finite. “Anticipation of Loss” would be an unusual way to start a life, but in this case the span is seen in relief. And so there is sadness, and slowness. But there is also beauty, and grace. Seen from the opposite end, after a death, one looks back on the person who has just passed and begins to see little glimmers of light ~ happy memories mingled with the mourning. Using a slightly higher key, tracks such as “Form Hanging in Air” provide welcome hints of brightness. The ukulele is also a great counterpoint to the cello, as it bears an aura of playfulness no matter how slowly it is played.
The wind of “First Time Underwater” blows in like a sudden winter, heralding an inner frost. When one loses a loved one, life seems to lie in suspension. øjeRum’s cover collage offers a metaphor of mysteries beneath a veil. Meanwhile, Martin continues to play, meticulous in his placement of notes. The processing sets the instruments in amber, affording no opportunity for escape. Yet whenever an instrument is heard live ~ the banjo in “Surface in Relief”, for instance ~ one senses movement, and thus life. Those who are dying are still alive. And those who have lost a loved one can survive a loss. On a surface level, the room is empty (a literal room or body), but on a spiritual level, the room may still contain resonances, memories, echoes of its former inhabitants. As Martin writes, “Memories Are Drifting Bells”, their sound traveling beyond their frames. Here are breaths, like that winter wind, and ghostly song: a counterbalance.
This is music of mourning, but it is also music of remembrance. Sorrow and gratitude each make their nests in these songs. A sad comfort is still a comfort. (Richard Allen)