I knew Brooklyn musician Grant Martin a little bit, but mostly just as someone I'd occasionally chat with in passing at shows and bars around town. He went to college at Oberlin with some friends of mine, and some of the members of his band, ICEWATER, went to college with some other people I know. When the news of his sudden, unexpected death started working its way around the local music community this past summer, I felt the sudden urge to get to know him better, and regret that I hadn't gotten to know him while he was still here. I searched his name in my email history, and was touched to see that he'd donated to a Kickstarter campaign I'd been involved with for an experimental music publication I'd started, long before I would have been able to place the face to the name (according to some mutual friends I spoke with after his death, he was very much the kind of guy to support a grassroots community cause).
Following an occasion where I'd run into him at a FADER issue release party, he'd also sent me an email, linking me to some of ICEWATER's music and asking me to send over some of the music that my band was working on, suggesting that maybe we could all play a show together some day. I felt an enormous pang of guilt to discover that I had never responded to his email, never listened to the link he sent me, perhaps never even given the email itself an honest read. It's the kind occurrence that's bound to happen when you have the kind of job that involves receiving music from hundreds of artists a day, but it was a slap-in-the-face reminder that you should never take another person's friendly gesture towards you—or even, the fact of their continued existence on earth— for granted, because you can never really say for sure whether you'll ever be able to repay the kindness.
As Matthew Schnipper points out in his editor's letter for FADER's current issue, in which we ran a long feature on the suicide of Brooklyn rapper Capital STEEZ, it can sometimes take a tragedy as unfathomable as an artist's premature death for the press to finally sit up and pay attention to their work. It's a reality that's painfully difficult to admit, and it's true in the case of me listening to ICEWATER. But there's also a happier, hidden lining in that truth, which is that when you finally end up listening to a really good band that you've never paid much mind to before—no matter how or why you end up listening to begin with—it's hard not to be overcome by an awareness of all the amazing art and all the amazing people out there that you simply have yet to spend quality time with.
That's the feeling of abundance that I experience when listening to ICEWATER's debut album Collector's Edition, recorded when Grant was still alive, and completed in the month after his passing by fellow guitarist and co-songwriter Malcolm Perkins, keyboard player Michael Rosen and drummer Noah Hecht. The album is being self-released today by the band, and it's a beautiful, richly detailed world unto itself, full of crystal-clear production, words evoking the kind of romantic American wanderlust that those of us cooped up in cramped New York City interiors can duly identify with and warm, meandering melodies that seem reluctant to leave any harmonic possibility uncovered. Perkins' voice is as expansive and inviting as the wide-open roads and vistas that he frequently evokes in song, but Martin's voice, on "Sandbox" and "Fabric," provides a cool, city slicker counterpoint, veering through the kind jazzy left turns that will appeal to the sleeping Steely Dan fan in you. Stream the album here, download a copy via Bandcamp or iTunes, and read a statement below from the band, who will continue recording and performing from here on in with Rosen's brother, Jonathan, on bass:
"Grant, our brother, best friend, and founding member, passed away unexpectedly while we were making the album. There was never a question as to whether or not we would finish what we started. ICEWATER brought us together and is what is keeping us together now--to continue as a band--writing, playing and recording. The remainder of the album was written and recorded in the month following Grant's death. Michael's brother Jonathan has stepped in to help us move forward."
Stream: Ice Water, Collector's Edition