Photo by Sienna Thiem
Resurrection, ghosts, and madness are essential to the music of Armbruster, a composer, performance artist, and violin player from Troy, NY. Rarely one for trying the same thing twice, he assures listeners that each release and each performance is a different face worn by the same body, and that each face is honest and true. In his latest release and debut album with Dear Life Records, Masses, Armbruster inhabits the vast, empty sanctuary of an old church. He uses two instruments, electric and acoustic violin, to converse with the building in two parts: first on themes of fall, falling, fading, and second on spring, springing, exploring. The recording, taken on a cold Friday in March of 2020, features compositions both premeditated and fully improvised.
Armbruster's path through music has been winding and diverse. Having practiced both traditional Irish fiddle and classical violin growing up, he became fascinated with the meeting points of different forms of expression. He entered the School of Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute fully expecting to pursue a career in the sciences, but made a broad change in focus after realizing a much greater passion and commitment to music. After a leave of absence, he transferred into a smaller but brilliant department of the school focused on the intersection of arts and sciences. Here, he became enamoured with the possibilities of avant-garde music and new practices of listening pioneered by Pauline Oliveros and other artists. After graduating, he began assembling a living through session work and teaching. He became close friends with songwriter and guitarist Joan Kelsey, writing violin parts and performing as part of Joan Kelsey's Silver Lining, meanwhile experimenting with his own genre of "found-footage freak folk" on the 2019 EP, Phonehenge.
More recently, Armbruster has focused on his own compositions and solo performances. He wrote and performed Properties of the Attic for the international online exhibition, Here & There, co-hosted by Window Room and Parkhaus15. During the summer and fall of 2021, he acted in, helped devise, and co-scored Where There's Smoke: Illium Burns with avant-garde theatre company, Troy Foundry Theatre. Armbruster also teaches music and gives instrument lessons to pre-k, elementary, and high school classes in the city of Troy, NY. He is also the parent of a toddler, and believes strongly in making musical opportunities available for children and young adults of all backgrounds.
Releases on DLR: