On Katabasis/Anabasis (2016):
“[…]Lumley goes further, examining the bass from all angles; the cassette’s single piece is a careful sonic study of plucking, bowing, and knocking, as if to diagnose whatever afflictions may plague this enormous carved mystery-box. The results are more organized and more organic than extended-technique noise often implies, as motifs are repeatedly morphed and stretched until another naturally appears. While the relentless rumble is not for the astraphobic, the hour-long cassette will satisfy those seeking dark adventures.”
–Lawrence Joseph, Musicworks Magazine #126
“The word “grappling” serves as a suitable description for Aaron Lumley’s bass work on his newest solo album Katabasis/Anabasis. Throughout the album there is a constant push and pull pressing on the emotions of the listener as Lumley tests the limits of each of his melodic ideas and extended techniques. On the tune “Grappling with a River,” Lumley instills a certain anxiousness from the very beginning by tightly gripping his bow, ripping a stressed tone from the strings of his instrument. Resolution is avoided throughout the 12 minute track making for an intense experience that sticks out as a highlight on a fantastic long-form album.”
–Donovan Burtan, Positively Underground
“Ni trop improvisée ni trop expérimentale, la musique d’Aaron Lumley (pizzi ou à l’archet qu’il a de vif sauf quand il s’en sert comme d’un bout de bois), se veut donc… organique. Et elle l’est en effet. Comme la nature, elle peut aussi être belle, chatoyante, agaçante et de temps en temps longue comme une nuit d’hiver.”
–Pierre Cécile, Le Son Du Grisli
“The ten pieces on Lumley’s Katabasis/Anabasis bear witness to an exploratory bassist with an aggressively physical attack—a collision of player and played erupting in a series of rattling, grinding, and creaking exclamations from deep within the instrument. Lumley has a strong and varied pizzicato that complements a robust arco exerting a compelling weight on the strings. One can almost see those strings visibly vibrating with each stroke of the bow or strike of the hand.”
–Daniel Barbiero, Avant Music News
On Wilderness (2012):
“Spiritual reverberations emanate from this dense offering of solo Contrebasse by Montreal-via-Toronto’s Aaron Lumley. Pushing past limitations of space and consciousness, mass churns through energetic bursts whose halo can be felt in every groove. Wilderness resonates with incredible candor while Lumley reaches lonesome heights of the highest mystic calibre. Worth every repeated listen.”
– Aaron Levin, Weird Canada
“Right out of the gate, this solo bass set is no-holds-barred, intense improvisation that grabs the attention.[…] Because he’s always changing how he elicits his sounds and which ones are combined there are no dull moments. For a solo bass recording ― often sober, oh-so-serious documents ― Wilderness is relentlessly energetic and engaging.”
– Glen Hall, Exclaim!
“Wilderness presents eight highly organic solo improvisations. […] There’s a sense of testing ground here, usually without any sense of haste but with keen attention to the inner messages of sound, playing and listening for certain harmonic inferences and rhythmic possibilities. […] Lumley’s journey into sound is compelling, and results in music shaped less by impulse than by the suggestions inherent in the bass’s physical properties”
– Stuart Broomer, Musicworks, Issue 114, Winter 2012
“Wilderness captures Lumley in the guise of a forager, searching for new methods to escape the limitations of technique, the human body, and the physical science of acoustics. By accomplishing this without straying beyond the boundaries of man and implement, he’s shown mastery of a vigorous beast, a task not for the faint of heart. Furthermore, the album is as appetizing for casual listeners as it is for serious improv mavens – a gravity-defying feat that is as rare as it is welcome!”
– Bryon Hayes, Foxy Digitalis
“Lumley’s playing […] is caustic and raw, his energy and aggression bleed out through the recording. Wilderness is a punk record at heart, hidden within the free improv scene. The songs find themselves in this organic almost chaotic way, as if the notes are a need, not a want. It never feels like a solo outing that is just a bunch of acrobatic exercises without a band. Each thought is fully formed and has a path, however meandering, it still manages to grow and evoke emotion. Play this record at night when you are in the woods to help you communicate with the trees.”
– Tadeusz Michalak, Offerings, August 2012
“Lumley has pulled off the difficult task of grabbing and holding attention through a solo recording. Put on your hiking boots and enter the thicket.”
– Lawrence Joseph, CultMTL
David Lee on Wilderness:
The double bass is an enormous territory – especially when you’re holding onto the damn thing and hoping to find something to play. The challenge to the double bass composer, or improviser, is the challenge of reconciling all the high low & order of the vast selection of landscapes that can be travelled within the instrument’s range. No wonder then, that Aaron Lumley calls his solo record Wilderness and that his titles conjure trees and rivers, hawks and coyotes, and from the depths of our wilds, even the Sasquatch (called here by its old European name, woodwose).
And something else natural – Lumley uses gut strings on his bass, a clear instance of apprehending the future by taking a step back. For years gut strings were all there were, and the introduction of steel strings in the 1950s was revolutionary. With smaller vibration radius, steel strings could be set closer to the fingerboard, making them easier to control. Their tone was more clear and more clean than that of gut strings. Along with new methods of amplification, they revolutionized acoustic bass playing. Double bassists began to play with the facility, and sometimes the mentality, of guitarists.
Gut strings on the other hand, are richly fibred and textured and so is their sound. But they are not so consistent in diameter and density throughout their length; each string is more of an individual. Steel strings are molded to obedience, gut strings are imperfect creatures and they resist control. To make the same note as a steel string, they sing on a wider vibrating radius, which means that once you strike a note on the string, when your finger strikes the next, the string may not be quite there. You have to accommodate yourself as a player to the personality of the string.
Like the wilderness itself such a creature operates with a sort of benevolent indifference that can turn cantankerous. With Lumley’s improvisations, the slippery dance between personality and control has evolved into a sexy and dynamic dialogue between player and instrument. This voyage is not a voyage of plunder to see who can go the farthest and come back with the most; to prove they can play higher or faster. It is a search for new mysteries that somehow, no one else has ever uncovered, that in their hearing enriches one’s everyday life. It is a territory explored by Mingus, Philips, Guy, Favors, Rabbath, Kowald, Parker, Leandre, Holland, the Carters (Kent and Ron) and many others. But in this era when we need, more than ever, to reconcile with the natural world, with this recording Lumley joins the ranks of those explorers of that wilderness – like them he returns from it with new mysteries that somehow, no one else has ever uncovered.