THE AIR BETWEEN WORDS
By Faith Masi
Photo by Mel D. Cole
The catchy track “Glassbeadgames” by Martyn (featuring Four Tet) piqued my interest back in May, and I knew I had to write about his upcoming album, The Air Between Words. The single shifts from a fast-paced drum loop, to a female house vocalist, and finally to a thumb piano-esque solo. His style represents a sea change for electronic music; it is in-between and over genre restrictions. Martyn blends cymbals, piano segments, metallic wobbly noises, and outer-space synthesizer sounds. The Air Between Words transports you, if you let it.
I absorb the record, and based on the samples and pace of the songs, certain visual settings come to mind: “Lullably” opens with skateboarding noises and later slides into industrial crashing sounds. It presents the reality that I am traversing city streets, eager to enjoy the journey more than the destination. The song “Love of Pleasure” with copeland inspires a warehouse rave setting – everyone is in white, over romance, and claims to have been abducted. I’m smiling at strangers, swaying with them, not asking questions. The cut “Forgiveness Step 2” has the urgency of a chase scene, and the slower build-ups make me feel as though I am hiding from a threat. Martyn’s addition of vocals inspire a sense that the delicate crooning is encouraging. I imagine an obstacle-filled alley, where I zip around unwanted furniture on a cool, summer night.
But these images are my personal take on the tone and movement of each track. It is more important to understand Martyn’s vision for his album, so, I read his biography from the Ninjatune (his label) website. The Air Between Words is Martyn’s third album, and he created it with a completely open mind. He practiced, probed, and kept what worked. Martyn “fell into a back-to-basics mentality where simple experimentation with purely analog sounds and equipment inadvertently turned into melodic sketches, and without warning, the album revealed itself.” (Ninjatune) Martyn’s debut album Great Lengths came out in 2009, and his second full-length, Ghost People, was released two years later. I want to allow Martyn to explain his latest work himself. Over email, I ask him about his background and The Air Between Words:
Is Martyn your real name or stage name?
Martyn is my real name.
Did you grow up in the U.S.? I read that you were born in the Netherlands, did you spend time there?
No, I was born and raised in the Netherlands and moved to the Washington D.C. area about six years ago.
What do you want readers to know about your new album, The Air Between Words?
Well, it’s my third LP, all 10 songs are very personal, and I like to think of them as "little works of art.” You could say my main influence for this album is house music, but you would have to stretch that term as wide as you can to fit my music into it. I guess that's a good thing.
What's the best environment to hear your music?
I always like to describe my music as perfect for a warm but rainy day.
Your new album incorporates elements of house, jazz-hop, and experimental electronic music. Do you want to be associated with a genre?
I never really think about genres when making music. If people like to label it as something when they hear it, that’s fine. But I just consider it to be “Martyn music.”
On your 2011 album, Ghost People, one of your tracks "Distortions" included a sample of a woman saying "This tape is supposed to be about love/I guess the distortions of love/A lot of sex and a lot of pleasure." On The Air Between Words a song called "Love of Pleasure" features copeland of Hype Williams singing “Has there ever been a thing that we do in vain/that we do for the love of pleasure?” -- Do you think people are less pleasure-seeking than in years past?
Those two songs don’t really have a relation to each other. But in general, people confuse pleasure with love, because they don’t understand what love really is.
What sort of music are you interested in lately? Any artist or album in particular?
I listen to a lot of '80s pop music like Bowie, Japan, Talking Heads, Devo and the B52’s. Besides that, there’s a lot of new music coming out that’s really great. Check out copeland’s solo album, Actress, the RVNG label from NYC, Vancouver’s Mood Hut label.
Are you touring with this album? When can I see you perform?
Yes! I do both DJ sets, as well as a live PA with copeland on vocals. We’re currently doing a lot of shows in Europe, and there’s going to be some great club gigs and festivals coming up towards the end of the summer and into the fall of this year.
Hear “Glassbeadgames” and "Love of Pleasure" below. The Air Between Words is available for purchase on iTunes on June 17th.