«Grounded» was recorded by American, New York-based clarinetist (and graphic artist) Aaron Novik as he was actually grounded during the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown in April and May 2020 in Elmhurst Queens in New York, the area now known as ground zero of the pandemic. Novik played the acoustic clarinet, bass clarinet and contrabass clarinet with minimal effects, but used creative editing, extended techniques, and unique microphone variety and placement, forcing his clarinets to acquire new sonic characteristics, close to electronic universes. Grounded is a limited edition of 200 cassettes plus a download option. The cover art was done by Novik’s partner, Ariadna Garza.
Novik remembers the times of the recordings as «of eerie silence, no cars, no people walking around, interspersed with ambulance sirens every 5 minutes. It was dread-inducing». «Grounded» was supposed to celebrate Novik’s settling down in a neighborhood he loved with his new wife and new life, but eventually radiated a «feeling of foreboding and uncertainty that we all felt as the pandemic shut down the country».
The first piece sounds as embracing the joy in Novik’s new life. This is a playful and innocent piece, with a simple, child-like melody, and this feeling is replicated on the third, percussive piece and the seventh, vintage synth-tinge piece, but now with dark, disturbing electronic undercurrents. And already on the second piece, the unsettling sound of sirens creeps in and morphs into an electronic whirlwind. And as the album progresses, the sense of being isolated with your own fears, frustration and doubts is reflected faithfully in the abstract and noisy soundscapes, especially in the fifth and tenth pieces. The sixth piece even introduces lyrical and reverent tones and comes close to the new-klezmer music Novik recorded for John Zorn’s Tzadik label («Secret of Secrets», Tzadik, 2012),
Novik cleverly blurs the distinction between acoustic and processed, electronic sounds and suggests a unique listening experience that captures feelings many of us shared in the last year.
Aaron Novik (cl, bcl, contrabasscl)