Aaron Dugan releases "Groundless"

Aaron Dugan
Longtime Matisyahu Guitarist Releases “Groundless”
by Dave Kosciolek


Aaron Dugan is no stranger to NE Florida. Likewise, I'm no stranger to Aaron. I've known him since my NYC music days, and since he was gracious enough to contribute a track to a benefit album my label was releasing in 2007. In July of 2016, after Matisyahu performed at The AMP, Aaron stopped by the open mic Narrow used to run at Sarbez and jammed with a bunch of local musicians. He's in town again for a show with Matisyahu at The AMP, and just released his latest album, “Groundless.”

When I first saw the song titles (which include “Kadima,” “Rolling Drunk on Petroleum,” and “Sukha”), I wondered how political this album might be, but Aaron assured me it isn't. “It is political only to the extent that any art is automatically political,” he told me. “I'm not interested in giving any air time to the particular politics of our day.”

While not political, it is a powerful album. In the liner notes, Aaron asks listeners to listen to entire album straight through. I did just this, and after building up momentum, songs 8 through 10 left me physically and mentally exhausted and drained. I asked Aaron if that was a desired effect, and he told me, “'Sums and Zeroes' is almost 10 minutes of warped intensity. It's a lot to digest. 'Changing Vessels' is a 6 minute trio improv. Also not easy listening. 'Rolling Drunk on Petroleum' is a deconstruction of an improvisation. The concept of the album turned out, in part, to be an aural representation of shifting mind states.”

On the related topic of disrupting personal climates, Aaron added, “I began meditating about 2 1/2 years ago. While it's often cited as a tranquil experience, meditating can bring up some very chaotic scenes and feelings that exist in my head. Also, I live with very intense emotional weather patterns. I can exist in states of tranquil ease and intense anxiety.”

I was also intrigued by what I perceived as synth work and the story behind it, in the song “Hypnagogues,” and Aaron told me, “That's actually my friend Igor Lumpert on Tenor Saxophone being run through a Red Panda Particle pedal I was manipulating while he was tracking an overdub onto the original improvisation.” He continued, “Tim Keiper (drums), Reid Taylor (bass) and myself set up in Orange Studios in West Orange NJ and improvised all day. Brian Marsella (keyboards) came in during the evening and joined us. A lot of the music on this album was made from those sessions. After that, my friends Curt Sydnor (keyboards), Amy Carrigan (vocals), Igor Lumpert (tenor saxophone) and Rob Marscher (keyboards) contributed overdubs on some of the pieces.”

After living in NYC for 21 years, Aaron recently made the move to Los Angeles a month ago. He tells me, “I love the east coast...(but) on the other hand, I wanted to see what it would be like to change my geographic location for a bit. I like nice weather.” He added, “I'm just trying out something new. There are certain unique beauties of the the west coast I'd like to experience while I'm here.”

Aaron also wanted to give a shout out to Josh Werner, who let him use one of his pieces of art for the cover. “I thought it captured beautifully the concept I was going for. He's known as a great bass player but very few people know him to be a visual artist. His work is stunning.”

dave kosciolek