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"Martin Schneider’s “Aquariums”"

Tennessee based Texan Martin Schneider holds familial and cultural ties with Savannah – good news for the local music scene. He’s a Music Business and Production graduate from Belmont University and founder of For the Philistine Records. His solo music project, Aquariums, is an experimental acoustic endeavor based around emotions and events from Schneider’s life experiences. Aquariums’ first album, Conceptual Realizations¸ is the first release on Schneider’s label. He will be touring the Southeast, playing Savannah in mid-February. - The South Magazine

"Aquariums, Conceptual Realizations (review)"

If Modest Mouse and My Morning Jacket were a family, then local band Aquariums would be their melancholy child.

This debut album, Conceptual Realizations, was released October 2007 and is the creation and first solo endeavor of Nashville local Martin Schneider. Through this project, Schneider said he hoped to portray events and emotions that have profoundly affected his life. This intense album combines some of Schneider ’s personal journeys as well as the emotional embodiment of others’ suffering. With sparse acoustic arrangements and droning vocals, this disc is definitely not one to put the kids to bed to.

Aquariums open its collection of songs with “Recall the Times,” a track that almost acts as a thesis for the album. It invites the listener to prepare for a walk through the author’s memories and the foreboding, dream-like lyrics seem to warn of dark times ahead.

The title track, “Aquariums,” has been given the credit as the inspiration for the whole album. This narrative focuses on the imprisonment of Chol-Hwan, a North Korean boy. Truly, the haunting lyrics dip into the desperation and misery he faced. “Nothing so beautiful can exist in another man’s cage/Wicked child you’ll be a wicked man/The cycle starts over again,” go the lyrics by Schneider, who has explained that this memoir induced the creative forces needed for the rest of the project.

Highlights, if one can label these austere tunes that, include “Ghosts,” with its extremely simple lyrics that help the listener venture into the mind of this artist. “Look in my window and peer through the shades/There’s not much in here and hasn’t been for days/Just the box in my attic and spoons on my floor/Come on in there’s no locks on my doors,” writes Schneider, who makes no attempts to sugarcoat his feelings. Life, after all, is sometimes barren and isolated, regardless of who is looking.

A bright spot comes in a later track, “From Home,” which actually contains hopeful lyrics. This track teams Schneider’s timbre with the silky alto vocals of Claire Adams for a particularly pleasing sound.

Although this album deals with some morose topics, it handles them maturely. One sign of an excellent songwriter is someone who can get outside of their own head, their own hang-ups and bravely delve into others’ lives; Aquariums quite poignantly deliver this. Despite the fact that Schneider’s album is a rather forlorn outlook, it never falters in painting a completely honest, if not somewhat painful, portrait of life.

For more information on Aquariums or to sample songs from the CD, click here . Conceptual Realizations is available here . - Kalie Mosher


FTP-001: 'Conceptual Realizations'
FTP-002: 'Live on 91.1 WRVU Dec. 6th, 2007'



Aquariums – a collection of ambitious and intense personal songs in an experimental/acoustic style

I have been playing the guitar since I turned fourteen and in bands nearly as long. Aquariums, my first solo endeavor, started almost two years ago. Conceptual Realizations is a collection of songs written and recorded from January 2006 to July 2007. Some of them took over a full year to reach their final form contained herein. From the start I chose not to employ a defined genre in which to write. Instead I chose to focus on composing songs based around emotions and events that deeply affected me. So if stylistically the songs are not all congruent, there is a thread that ties all of them together: emotion.

I recorded the entirety in solitude at the various houses and apartments I have occupied in the past year and a half. The genesis of the collection, ‘Aquariums’, was written while reading The Aquariums of Pyongyang by Kang Chol-Hwan translated by Pierre Rigoulot. This haunting memoir details the tribulations of North Korean, Kang Chol-Hwan, and his family who were imprisoned in a hard labor camp in North Korea. Mr. Chol-Hwan languished there from the age of nine to eighteen. I wrote ‘Aquariums’ about his life prior to his family’s imprisonment. Reading about the cruelty of the people that surrounded him, even the children, was very disturbing. ‘Escape’ takes place after his release from the labor camp, and is about his journey out of North Korea into China and eventually to South Korea. Reading this book kick-started the creative process and is where the name for the project originated. The remainder of the collection, written to capture different emotions that I have experienced in the past year in musical form, includes ‘1991’, ‘Lovely Mother’, and ‘Love of a Brother’.

Looking through the contents of my grandfather’s dresser drawer and thinking back on the December that he passed on moved me. Later that night, while wearing his watch and feverishly etching out lyrics on the inside foil of an empty pack of cigarettes, ‘1991’ was written. I wrote ‘Lovely Mother’ in much the same fashion. My girlfriend’s mother had just taken a downward turn and my girlfriend was devastated. It was painful to see her suffer. I wanted to write her a somber, compassionate song to show her how I felt. I knew how it should sound, but the lyrics would not come. While visiting my brother in Savannah, I explained to him how I was feeling and what I wanted to express in verse when the lyrics finally came to me. Once I came up with the lyrics, I knew the song had to be in two parts: the first expressing how I felt and the second conveying the relationship between my girlfriend and her mother. These lyrics were written in one sitting and I was less concerned with rhyme than describing a complete emotion. ‘Love of a Brother’ came after a late night conversation my brother about my lack of a relationship with God. After he went to bed I could not stop thinking about what he had said and could not fall asleep. While awake in my bed, with my guitar, I wrote down some words to a melody I had been playing with earlier in the day. When I awoke the next morning the first thing I did was play him the song.

This is a very personal album and it has taken a long time to come to fruition. Recording it alone gave me the opportunity to experiment and explore instrumentation and sound without being pulled in a different direction by another’s influence. The songs were, for the most part, written in a similar fashion. None of them were complete before they were recorded. Many of the songs were allowed to grow through the recording process into something impossible to replicate alone in concert. The lyrics were regularly the final part of the song to fall into place. They were often written separately while either out of town or on the road and then adapted to fit the song. I find it very helpful to remove myself from Nashville and familiar surroundings in order to clear my head and actually get something done.