Aidan Koop – Context, Sensitivity, for the purpose of feeling – EPs In Review
Three projects on the go from the young ambient/instrumental artist known as Aidan Koop – that’s not just one big long title up there, it’s referring to separate EPs. Makes sense when you read into Koop’s social media and places where he’s posting his music…there is…a LOT going on in this guy’s brain. By all indications…that brain is working overtime; Aidan is clearly an empath who thinks and feels something strong in all situations, relationships and experiences in life. As much as that kind of busy headspace can nearly drive a person nutty, if you find the right creative outlet for yourself, you can quickly turn it into art – you can find that was to express these emotions, thoughts & feelings in ways that can potentially save you from yourself and bring a lifetime of confusion into focus. I like to think that even though Aidan Koop is all the way over in Australia somewhere, that I know this guy…because from everything I’ve read, listened to and absorbed…in many ways, I feel like I’ve been this guy myself.
So let’s start with some Context. Brilliant name for a first record in my opinion…think about that for a second; if there’s any truth in the ‘lifetime to make your first album and two weeks to make your second’ theory…then Context is a perfect & simple way of saying, ‘here it is, here’s the history and what’s brought me to this point.’ As the icy, crystalline sounds of “Broken, Because” start-up, you can feel the emotion in the ambient atmosphere. Powerfully moving, subtle in sound – I’m a huge fan of this genre mind you, but this is a highly accessible style of ambience here…you really can feel the notes, tones and overall atmosphere of “Broken, Because” flow right into your soul. The recording on it is tremendously cool…the entire song floats along exactly like a dreamscape…like the wind carrying memories, thoughts & nostalgia into your ears to contemplate gently. I want to say it’s perfect…because 99% of this one really is in my opinion. It’s 7+ minutes long…and it’s tough to keep a length like that free of some controversy along the line somewhere. For the greater part of this song, Aidan exercises brilliant restraint, amazing instincts and impressive choices in his vision for sound, there are only a few moments I questioned as to whether or not they ‘fit.’ Right around the 2:20 mark was one…lasts maybe five to ten seconds at max…then around the 2:55 mark there’s a bit of a contrasting tone there I’m not entirely sure works, same thing, maybe lasts a couple seconds. In a seven-minute long song…I think there’s about fifteen entire seconds at max that I wasn’t sure of…so come on…give the man some credit, as far as first impressions go – Aidan’s done a killer job of making a massive impact through the majority of “Broken, Because” and basically forced me to split hairs. The crawling movement, the space in the atmosphere, the tones of the music and the mood of the song all lead to a captivating first experience with Koop’s style & sound.
How’s THIS for a second impression though? When “Disconcerted” began, my first internal thought was ‘yep, I’d listen to this guy’s stuff all day long’ – and I mean that sincerely. Aidan is making really smart choices with his music and impressively innovating his own instrumental style with brilliant ideas and textures that keep everything we hear sounding extraordinary. “Disconcerted” is a perfect example of that…I mean…I just LOVE the way he’s got the melody working here! Not only has he got an amazing set of ideas that are the heartbeat & backbone of this tune, but he’s also combined the stunning & bizarre in the surrounding elements with samples scattered throughout the atmosphere of “Disconcerted” to really make it sound unique and stand-out. He’s also expanded the music even further here to include the crisp snap of drums to lead the way…but it’s the truly charming & captivating combinations that Aidan has come up with here that lead to this track becoming so highly interesting to the ears. Not a thing I’d change about this track…heck, I wish I’d written this one myself – “Disconcerted” is brilliant.
OKAY. Where did this guy come from? “Ocean Heart” is the kind of song that most artists out there wouldn’t have the courage to put out or perform on a debut record…and this dude seems to continually get better and better. The muted-strings/harmonic-laden bass-riffs on this track are played with such stunning melody and emotion, precision and heart…call me crazy, but I found this intimate moment to be a real breathtaking one on Context. Beautiful execution on this track…for the most part, Aidan’s left on his own to riff this one out in the song’s first three-minutes and sounds completely amazing in the sparseness of sound before “Ocean Heart” builds itself into something more akin to a subtle-version of Explosions In The Sky for a moment in the middle, then breaking it all down to a humble ending. Koop has obviously got an incredible understanding of layout & flow…you can hear it in his song structures, you can also hear it in the layout of the songs from track-to-track – listen to how well “Singularity” picks up from where “Ocean Heart” leaves you off.
What’s going to appeal to any of us as individuals will likely be different for all of us. With “Singularity” rising up to Mogwai-esque proportions, I can understand what prompted Aidan to mention that it’s more or less the centerpiece of this particular record when you read its write-up…there’s plenty of good reason to feel that way. That being said…in a record’s description…not sure if that’s the place you want to express that truthfully, I’m a little tossed up on that issue…I’m thinking I probably believe that’s info better saved for interviews where you can explain that more in-depth. As it stands, it’s kind of leading in a way…I understand why it’s the potential stand-out track for the scope, sound and stunning execution on “Singularity” – but to write that in there…I dunno…it almost threatens some of the credibility of the other songs, I suppose that’s what I’m saying. I don’t think there should be any chance, slight-risk or possibility of people just heading to the one track here on Context…it’s really a complete five song set that should really be experienced in its entirety, that’s all I’m saying. For some, likely many, “Singularity” WILL be the track of the record for you – and I can’t say I’d blame you for your choice whatsoever, it’s a solid tune from beginning to end…but for others out there, myself included, moments like “Disconcerted” and “Ocean Heart” show just as much brilliance, talent, passion and heart that they could easily be the centerpieces to the record to us, as listeners. It’s a tiny, tiny thing to nitpick – it’s just words describing a record right? Well…nitpickin’s all I got when it comes to Aidan’s music…he ain’t making any kind of major missteps at all and I don’t foresee any coming any time soon!
By the time the ending of Context came around with “Repeating” I already had a massively favorable opinion of what I hear in Aidan’s music, style and approach to instrumental/ambient ideas – he just iced the cake on what’s already been a great experience and first impression with one final, short dose of thought-provoking, emotional, melancholy & pensive sound. His use of space has been an incredible asset along the way…Aidan really understands the benefits of pace and spreading out the atmosphere in his music so that we really hear these amazing textures, tones and effects contributing along the way. “Repeating” ends the EP on a highlight for clarity…it might be a somewhat downtrodden sound in its mood, movement & tone – but everything we hear is so compelling to listen to that I couldn’t take my ears off this one. Truth be told, I left “Repeating” repeating several times over, just because I got lost in its hypnotic sound and emboldened melancholy…it’s a real moment in time & great ending to this record.
The music continues with the Sensitivity EP, released just months later in July of 2017, digging further into depression & expression as Aidan continues to explore emotion throughout this new song set. Any record that has to include a statement that reads ‘Please don’t feel any sense of worry or misunderstanding, I’m ok’ tells you just how deep it’s about to run as Aidan searches for a vein of truth in this world, through music. The title track “Sensitivity” begins the EP in a similarly haunting style as Context at half the length…but if I’m being truthful…not quite as enticing to listen to. I dig the playing for the most part, dig the richness of the reverb-stocked atmosphere but was a bit unsure of the production on “Sensitivity” and overall by comparison to the rest of what we’ve heard so far, “Sensitivity” nearly seemed like Aidan at half-mast. If the intent was to communicate the wandering nature of depression…perhaps I could hear this working conceptually…there’s a forlorn hollowness in this one. I think Aidan might have pushed the space-factor a bit too far on this particular opening for the second EP and spread this one out a bit too thin to retain the average listener’s interest – even as an ambient fan myself, it’s much tougher to find something concrete to latch onto as Sensitivity begins.
“I’m Not Okay” certainly isn’t any more ‘full’ than “Sensitivity” was in terms of the space in the atmosphere of the structure in the song, but with less effects and a more straight-ahead sound in the mix, I think this track came out with the desired results. That being said, I’d like to point out the fact that in the write-up for this record Aidan went out of his way to say he WAS ok…so what are we supposed to think when we see/hear “I’m Not Okay” – which of these two reference-points do we trust most? If you were to judge from the sound of the audibly raw emotion in the guitar tones of “I’m Not Okay,” I think you’d be likely to believe that this is indeed, the true case. One might also argue that by making the time to clarify that point to begin with, is also an indication that Aidan is not ok; but also quite clearly, music is that expressive release that helps him get through the hard times. In that sense, we’re brothers in arms…if it wasn’t for music, I probably wouldn’t have found a reason to even exist. I really like just how much the combination of what he’s written down in writing about these records makes my mind wander while I’m listening to his music, just trying to get into his mindset and understand the emotional threads that tie these songs together. “I’m Not Okay” was exceptional to me – I think it’s tremendously expressive in its subtlety and really well thought-out. I got lost in this one on repeat as well…it’s only just over two-minutes long but I felt like I listened to it for about two hours on its own. “I’m Not Okay” is the kind of relatable melancholy that works…you’ll likely feel a strong connection to this one inside your very core just like I did.
As much as I loved “I’m Not Okay” – when “Something, Somewhere” started right afterwards, my first thoughts were ‘this is what I want more of from Aidan right now’ – so he clearly found a way to raise the stakes on Sensitivity right around this mark as far as I’m concerned. At the end of the day, personally, I’m much more likely to spend a whole day with a song like “I’m Not Okay” and not as much on “Something, Somewhere” – but that’s purely because they have different energies for different times. I spend a lot more time feeling like “I’m Not Okay” than I do feeling like I am okay, so that song speaks to me more on a personal-level. BUT…if we’re talking about universal appeal or a more widespread degree of accessibility, I think the people out there would dig “Something, Somewhere” and hear it as a highlight in the middle of this EP. Giving Aidan the credit for some really awesome ideas in the percussion/drums of “Something, Somewhere” – as per his usual, he’s got great ideas in the guitars overtop but this is one of the first tracks where he’s really flexed his imagination on the drums in the music and it sounds fantastic. That’s not just keeping the beat – that’s a real addition to the writing, melody, rhythm and flow of this tune and becomes quickly essential to its hook & pull, right from the very beginning where it starts on its own before Aidan’s even played a note of guitar. The beginning is magical…I love the way the guitar notes ring-out in this one, dig the second rhythmic layer adding the chops as well; the payoff is large, the song expands and evolves organically into territory much larger in sound than where it starts but never sheds its creative edge.
I loved “Marion.” Of all the songs that Aidan’s written & recorded up to this point, I think this one in particular highlights the beauty found within melancholy and shows that sad can still be stunning. I’ll say this…”Marion” sounds insightfully emotional, raw and real…but not necessarily happy, just so you’ve all been warned. In my opinion, at the right time on the wrong day, this is the kind of song that can easily induce tears…it’s a powerful piece of music. Personally, I’m again much more at home in atmospheres like these…the expressive nature in Aidan’s guitar work is in full-bloom here and “Marion” sounds as extraordinarily captivating as it does drained, hollow and empty at the same time. Don’t know that I can quite put my finger on it…and maybe it’s just the name in the title that has me believing it, but “Marion” sounds much more personal, more connected to Aidan in his performance on this one. Dude has got a lot of technique in his musicianship, that much is clear. While he could have chosen any style of music to play, he’s really found an excellent vehicle through his ambient/instrumental sound that really lets his talent and capabilities subtly shine through – “Marion” is all the proof you need.
If I’m not mistaken, Aidan borrows another move from the Mogwai crew to add in a bit of piano on the final track “Mess.” It’s a brilliant move that makes for a real highlight in the melody driving the song. Aidan’s got a tremendous knack for honesty in his sound and style…and I think that the titles themselves are also a strong indication of what he’s thinking/feeling at all times. Therefore…”Mess” is kind of what you might envision it to sound like based on the word…I wouldn’t say that this is necessarily Aidan’s most cohesive idea overall perhaps, but there are multiple moments of redemption throughout this 8+ minute epic. Excellent transitions, subtle samples…I absolutely freakin LOVED how you can hear really quiet voices throughout this tune…or at the very least, I hope you’re all hearing them too and they’re not just in my head! “Mess” has a few moments of scattered confusion and a little apprehension in the timing in spots…but for the most part once again, Aidan Koop comes out with a really interesting track and highly unique moment in time…and I think all our ears would agree on that. Overall there are real meaty ideas here at work that guide “Mess” from wandering too far out there, retaining enough accessibility and sensibility in its mix of ideas to keep us right there with its every twist & turn.
Right around the corner, on October 1st this year, Aidan’s latest record for the purpose of feeling will be officially released – and you’ll certainly notice a lot of changes in the direction & sound this time around. In my opinion – he’s taken the artistic-side up more than a couple notches with this record, and although expressing depression & intensely questioning his place in this world, adding in the spoken-word aspect to many of these tracks have him communicating more directly and confidently than ever. Exploring the darkest corners of his mind on “feeling; don’t want to” – you can tell things are going to get more twisted here on this record simply by the visual clue in the titles and how none of them are even capitalized this time around. Seem trivial? I assure you, it’s no accident. Artists like Aidan communicate in a variety of versatile ways…and as a naturally ambient & instrumentally-inclined artist, you can bet that the titles are one of those tools he uses to get his feelings, thoughts & emotions across. That being said, “feeling; don’t want to” pretty much says everything on his mind through the scattered & frantic free-flowing thoughts in the lyricism you’ll hear clearly while the music increases the madness & mayhem in behind his haunting voice. For the first official time that we’ve heard Aidan’s voice on a song – this is a seriously bold first impression and a highlight in his creativity here; while it might draw on the bizarre and dark side of sound, the performance is a shining beacon of professionalism overall. He’s put real drama and fitting energy into the vocals and paired it fantastically with the brilliantly wild and transformative music on “feeling; don’t want to” – it’s dark, it’s artistic, it’s devastating lyrically…all those good things! I thought this was an incredible beginning to a new chapter in Aidan’s music.
“feeling; you” adds further insight into the mindset and emotional-state of its creator. I’ll say this…I didn’t feel quite as strongly about it as I did the record’s opening tune, but I still appreciated the way he’s put this together and the idea of incorporating the spoken-word element into his music. I also really liked how the words themselves almost felt like a journal entry of sorts…I like the way that Aidan writes poetically and is able to deliver the words stylistically to match the true emotion in the lyrics that he’s wanting to get across. “feeling; you” is akin to chasing the dragon, only this time with a particularly personal relationship…’the one thing, the only thing’ to find ‘the one way, the only way.’ For me, it’s that very first line in this song that really sets the mood…’the longest train ride’ drifts along with the guitars and our thoughts as its spoken aloud, allowing our minds to ride along with him from there on.
“fucked” is one of the most honest tunes you’ll probably ever hear. Even if the words are only representational of a moment in time for Koop or a particular mood he’s in – there’s still a level of personal insight and honesty on this song that you’re unlikely to hear in any other. There is a possibility that Aidan’s simply written a strong narrative here based on fiction…but I highly doubt it. Everything about his music has kept an amazing level of straightforwardness to it on an emotional level that we have to assume that the words he’s speaking here on “fucked” are based on real life experience. It’s jaw-dropping, heartbreaking and all-too-real – you can visualize each and every word coming from Aidan’s lips…these are words you can feel the hurt inside of. It’s one of those tough songs in the sense that it’s so unbelievably amazing you almost don’t want to encourage it because it really does reach into the blackest of holes…yet the sincerity in his voice and the powerful way Aidan describes his feelings and thoughts, the indescribable level of emotion in the haunting atmosphere in the music…it’s all about as incredible and stunning as a moment in music can possibly get. What can I do other than tell the truth? As hard as a song like this would be to create and the amount of courage it would take to put it out there…I firmly believe you have to applaud the execution of a moment like this – “fucked” might just be one of the best tracks I’ve heard this year, so how’s that for turning tragedy into a genuine WIN? “fucked” is desolate, extraordinarily sad and straight-up chilling to listen to…and so inspiringly artistic & brilliantly performed that you’ll hang on to each and every word spilling from Aidan’s soul.
He’s been plenty honest with us all the way through…the least I can do is repay the favor. Aidan I love ya brother, but you’ve got some notes & tones in the opening of “just for a moment, let’s be still” that are gonna drive me mental lol. Not gonna lie to the guy, he plays a much better guitar than I’ll ever lay claim to myself…but he’s making a few stranger choices here in the melody-line of the main riff of “just for a moment, let’s be still” that are like…a semi-tone short or just plain contrasting to the rest of the tones surrounding them. It’s generally the hanging-note that’s making me question its fit…the rest of the riff seems to work beautifully for the most part and I appreciate its complexity. Aidan heads back into instrumental territory here with this cut and makes an extraordinary transition just part the ninety-second mark via production, fading in a completely new energy into the song and bursting out with vibrantly expressive instrumental sound from the lefts & rights. From there, everything seems to right itself, even when he heads back into the melodic riffs that led us here to begin with, they seem to sound better towards the end…so maybe by that point, our ears are accustomed to what at first seemed more jarring in its combination of tones. I also felt like the production of “just for a moment, let’s be still” really came to life at the song’s most involved & full spots musically, having Aidan sounding more crisp, clear & spot-on in the levels of the mix than perhaps we’ve heard so far.
How he keeps it together on “the most loved human being” is well beyond me. Everything my ears tell me says that this song is all over the map in terms of its timing…it speeds up, it slows down…many times in completely unpredictable ways. What’s extremely bizarre is that Aidan stays with this one…all the elements of the music still support each other through its strange movements…which of course, tells you that anything we hear that might sound weird is actually purposeful, or that he’s at the very least extremely adaptable! There’s a couple of strange notes in the mix, a couple twists that feel more jarring than others…but that first explosion in transition from quiet to loud is worth all the beans. That’s RIGHT people…not just one or two beans – ALL the beans. I also extremely enjoyed the way the song drifts back out from that intensity and slowly breaks down to its ending…it ends for the purpose of feeling conclusively and decisively; Aidan’s put in an entire soul’s worth of emotion throughout these songs and by the end, he’s spiritually spent…and that ends up representing itself through that final breakdown.
Overall…definitely a guy I want to see & hear continuing on his path in music. He’s shown a depth of specifically insightful choices in his writing and taken many chances with his art in the process – but by making everything so incredibly vivid, personal and real – he’s managed to pull me in close for every second along the way. These three EP’s are more than a great start – they show an artist that’s well on his way to embracing the immaculate strengths in his creativity, expression and musicianship. He’s definitely got a future and a place in music…if he really wants it bad enough.
And at the heart of it all, even in his most desolate and devastating moments, I think he’s proven that he truly does.
Find music from Aidan Koop at Bandcamp: https://aidankoop.bandcamp.com/