As the days are getting longer and warmer in my neck of the woods, sometimes I need to turn off the latest extreme metal and listen to something genuinely pleasant. Something that feels as comforting and welcoming as the sunshine and the gentle breeze in my backyard. And wouldn’t you know it, Martin Howth has arrived right on time to deliver us just exactly that feeling with the premiere of debut album Distant Dissonance!

Hailing from Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey and having released a debut EP in 2018, Martin Howth is the work of vocalist Audra Mariel, who eschews all instrumentation in favor of crafting beautiful songs out of nothing more than her own voice and a loop station. Stylistically, you could call Distant Dissonance a middle group between ambient music and art pop, but it’s almost easier to check out genre at the door and just enjoy this album as just a thick woven blanket of voice. Even a traditional studio setup has been passed over for this album, with songs recorded at various historical mansions and university campuses around New Jersey. In her own words:

‘Because Martin Howth is a project where vocals are always looped live in performance, recording live takes in unique spaces felt like an interesting way to create a record with the intent to achieve an authenticity that might be lost on a tracked studio recording. Recording live takes requires one to cultivate a certain level of patience and simultaneously release some of the perfectionism that might be part of a typical recording session. Being in each of these unique spaces made this process an exploratory one, where I could discover how the sound of each room and the energy of the space shaped the performance of a song.’

Having given the album a listen, I can happily report that Martin Howth’s experimentation with looped vocals recorded live in diverse locations absolutely works wonders. Every song feels distinct and has its own unique personality, from the lush, soothing choir of voices that come together for closing track “Golden Mean” to the spoken word ode to home “Magic House”, featuring the sounds of wind, insects, and a chatty cat. The lyricism throughout is thoughtful, and the slow build of every song all but assures that listeners open to the approach will be fully engrossed in the album front to back. It’s an airy album that feels plaintively honest, expertly crafted, and is just a joy to listen to.

Distant Dissonance will be released on April 19, 2024 through Nefarious Industries, and anyone interested in pre-ordering the album on digital or vinyl can find it here (along with a cool shirt)! Also, consider following Martin Howth through Facebook if you’re interested in any other news or potentially a live show. Seems to me like it’d be a great project to catch live!

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