Aidan Koop – quiet spaces – Album Review
If you can remember all the way back to September of last year, you’ll remember the name Aidan Koop from our pages when we reviewed his three EPs, Context, Sensitivity, and For The Purpose Of Feeling and likely just how deep we dove into the highly imaginative sonic terrain that he was beginning to explore. We might have just been catching up to where Aidan was at the time, but make no mistake, it was also a reflection of how busy he’s been making music – every one of those EPs were released in 2017. Back again already with a brand-new record called quiet spaces, Aidan is sounding wildly creative, sincerely emotional and highly melodic with his instrumentals once again…and the resounding honesty in his music echoes for light-years beyond what most people could comprehend ever putting out there into the world. Reading the write-up on his page at Bandcamp for quiet spaces will tell you more about this record and what goes into it than I ever could explain here; half of me wanted to simply copy and paste his words and his words alone and leave that as the official review, just to make sure that’s what’s ultimately being read…because it’ll give you key insights into this record that’ll induce chills later on.
I’ll at least give you a sample…so you can understand the vibe you’ll find on Aidan Koop’s new record: “This album is meant to be something that you jam along to, something you feel, something you sit in your bedroom at 3AM and listen to, something to be alone with.”
And so I followed those instructions more or less. I didn’t want to crank up the amps at 3am, but I did make a point of listening to quiet spaces alone in the dead of night at the studio throughout the week. Did I get where Aidan was coming from in his assessment of how to experience this record listening to it that way? Absolutely. quiet spaces plays on like a lucid dream…vivid and real. He’s done an expert job of creating soundscapes and atmospheres that will carry you away into your own thoughts & then snap you back to attention with a clever addition to the structure of the music or ear-catching melody-line.
For myself personally, I could probably listen to Aidan Koop all day every day. Not only am I a huge fan of all-things post-rock to begin with, but he continually makes the smart choices of a songwriter immersed and dedicated to his craft with a true ear for sound. “Always As You Leave, And Never As You Return” is a freakin’ genius-level beginning to an album, mixing ambient and post-rock ideas together, fusing them brilliantly through the first three minutes of the record’s first cut before the drums add more presence and brings Aidan out of the dark & into the light. The swirling atmosphere on “Always As You Leave, And Never As You Return” continually gets thicker until it envelops you fully, swallowing you whole in the sound until it breaks beautifully into low-key final ninety seconds to let you down gently after the song’s wildest moments. At nearly six minutes in length, Aidan’s bringing you on a quest of sound that really delivers right off the bat with its unique atmosphere and smartly written structure.
“Memories” made for one of my favorite early experiences on quiet spaces with its immediate focus, complexity, and highly memorable hooks fully on display in the song’s first half. I think it’s a highlight example of how Aidan can express himself through music…he’s written really impressive parts into the guitars on this second tune and put a highly imaginative progression into “Memories” that includes some really cool choices in tones that I again, wouldn’t think others out there might make. Aidan takes a road less travelled here with some of those lower-notes in the structure adding in a depth to the melody many people wouldn’t expect to hear there, but I think it’s choices like that that make a lot of what Aidan does not just interesting, but quite identifiable to his own style of writing. The beginning of “Memories” is hands-down my favorite opening of any song on the record…the first couple of bars have such a distinct character to their sound that I could have quite happily listened to the song fully recorded that way. The clarity increases along with the melody and smart progression of plucked-notes that create the main hooks…it’s not a typical melody by any stretch and that’s probably what I love most about it. This took imagination, effort and capability to come up with…it’s the kind of ideas that other musicians hear and their ears perk up for a second to recognize the skill and creativity it would take to come up with something like that & pull it all off as sincere & organic as Aidan has it sounding. I’ll say this…I wasn’t as much of a fan of the second-part of the writing with the intensity breaking the melodic vibe of “Memories” a bit more than I wanted it to…but it still suited the song well enough & provided a different dynamic to the tune overall that allowed it to change & evolve.
So I like the slower parts more – that ain’t no crime! Besides…Aidan is ultimately on my side as well – you can hear it in a song like “Empty” as he noodles around on the guitar thoughtfully in the wide-open atmosphere. As a big fan of space in my sound…not like, outer-orbit space but like, silent-space…or more distance between elements in a song, that kind of space…I really liked the hollowness inside of “Empty.” Everything comes ringing through so clearly…I like how he shifts the presence of the drums over the course of the flow in this song from off in the distance to right up front. Aidan always manages to get a great mix and great tones from his guitar…that’s almost a given at this point…but songs like “Empty” still stand out for just how continually RIGHT he gets it time & again. “Empty” is actually quite a demanding tune when it comes to its crawling pace and metering…the kind of song where each element comes through so clearly that we’d notice if Aidan was off by a fraction of a second with any of his parts…and he never lets you down on “Empty,” which is impressive considering it’s over eight minutes long. Aidan shows a real professional-level of patience on this third cut from the record, which is definitely one of its more ambient tunes until it reaches that transition point…and even in the quietest moments, he sounds stunningly impressive and has you holding your breath waiting on that next part to break through the gentleness of the music. He gets downright jazzy in his approach to the drums around the five-minute mark as “Empty” shifts into a new gear, retaining the essence of what’s made it completely engaging to listen to all along and adding in more spirit and energy through the presence of the drums finding their way into the mix as the song plays on.
I want it on record that I felt Aidan was completely ready to roll back in the last review…quiet spaces is a great album without question, but let’s be honest here…he’s now just confirming how talented he is! I truly admire this guy for just how incredibly expressive he is in his post-rock style…how he continually nails such powerful emotion in his music and how he’s able to put so much of himself into it. No matter that the songs are without words…that’s the magic with Aidan Koop’s music; you still feel like the music he writes fully connects you to his mindset, emotions, heart, thought-process and feelings without so much as a whisper. He can convey things through music that most others out there, cannot, straight-up. Songs like “It Is, As We Know It” are complete proof of that fact as far as my own ears are concerned. Listening to the way these notes ring out so perfectly, how well-timed each second of Aidan’s music truly is and how insightfully well it’s played, performed and produced…it can seriously be a breathtaking and rewarding experience to listen to. As quiet spaces began its second-half with what quickly became one of the highlight moments of his new record…I kind of had to crack a smile and sincerely take a moment to be happy for Aidan in amongst a sea of thought-provoking & melancholy vibes he was creating through my speakers; even though I felt like the overall pulse & heartbeat driving the emotion of “It Is, As We Know It” is truly sad…it’s also incredibly real and an audible statement or testament to just how much an instrumental song can make you FEEL something. I identify with pensive, fragile, sad, melancholy…these kind of emotions in music resonate with me quite readily…but when you combine that with the courage, instincts & confidence that Aidan displays as a performer & songwriter, it really puts him on a whole other level he can really call his own. “It Is, As We Know It” is absolutely one of the most powerful moments on a whole record stuffed full of them, leading perfectly into another to follow.
Like many an artist or band you’ll find in the post-rock music-scene, Aidan can often find himself in longer compositions like we experienced with the eight minute-plus “Empty” and the nearly eleven minute long title-track, “quiet spaces.” He’ll get his comparisons to Explosions In The Sky along the way – but in my world, that would always be a massive compliment. When it comes right down to it, any writer or reviewer that would establish that comparison is generally trying to convey the same exact message, which is that Aidan really understands how to get maximum emotion into every moment of his music, just like Explosions do. “quiet spaces” is a fantastic example of that emotional-impact that Aidan can make through his music within an expanded structure. Ultimately, he finds real success here due to the fact that he’s not overcomplicating the actual ingredients that make up the core of the sound – he’s kept this song stunningly sparse for its length…and managed to bring out the real beauty, haunting melody, and powerful emotion of the song through the natural combination that occurs. In a song this long, you’d think on paper it would need more to make the most of its ten-plus minutes…but again, this is where Aidan turns it on even more, developing a captivating and hypnotic atmosphere that pulls you in on “quiet spaces.” Back-to-back with “It Is, As We Know It” – Aidan’s put together a pivotal moment in this record that peels back the pain to reveal what’s real…like you can hear him shifting through the different emotions that come along with an intensely personal year and that he’s put them into the tones, movement and sounds on “quiet spaces,” letting music play a role in his catharsis and healing.
The shift into the muted strings echoing through “Yet” was a genius move and sincerely gripping to listen to. Even at his most low-key moments, Aidan has such an extraordinary gift when it comes to creating atmospheres that will make you listen so intently that you could hear a pin drop in between tracks. And therein lies the magic folks…that’s another reason right there that you want to put this record on late at night and allow it to drift you away into your thoughts and out of your work day, out of your week and into your weekend. The rhythm, melody and vibe he’s created in his guitar work on “Yet” in those muted strings deserves some serious accolades…great technique being applied here, leading Aidan to more fascinating results and a sparkling new idea to experience. Of all the tracks on the record, which I’ve been sincerely impressed with, I’d definitely examine “Yet” as a potential single to put out there to bring the people in to listen to quiet spaces. The way he has written, played and produced this tune has such an interesting sound to it & such accessible emotions on display that I think pretty much everyone out there would find a way to connect with the sounds you’ll find on “Yet.” Not only are they some of the most interesting ideas from Aidan on quiet spaces, they’re really some of the most well executed & potentially lasting that you’ll discover throughout the experience of quiet spaces.
I’m still going to advocate on behalf of checking out his social media and learning more about this record from Aidan’s point of view…but to let you in on one last major detail, much of quiet spaces revolved around the feelings, thoughts & emotions surrounding the passing of his dearly departed grandpa. Like I’ve already pointed out – Aidan’s music has an incredible layer of honesty to it that most artists can’t even reach or tap into…and its stunning results and moments like you’ll find on quiet spaces that really honor that memory with the respect it deserves. Aidan’s grandfather would be proud of his efforts and accomplishments on this record, I have no doubt. You can feel that nostalgic emotion float through so many of these songs, reflecting the power of memory and the rollercoaster of thoughts & feelings that come along with it. On songs like “Empty” and “quiet spaces” you can really feel the loss and hole that this tragic departure has created in Aidan’s life…and I think on tracks like “Memories” and “That Lonely Feeling You Never Want To Leave” you really hear how he’s found a way to create something positive and powerful out of the experience. It could not have been easy…it takes courage to write like he does. You feel these moments…songs like “That Lonely Feeling You Never Want To Leave” make for truly moving experiences; expressions in music like he creates around the two-minute mark of this final cut are essentially what I live to discover through the speakers and deliver an unforgettable highlight in the latest stages of his new record before he breaks it down gently, leaving us on hushed tones and a vivid memory of the powerful journey we’ve just been a part of.
Aidan Koop is WINNING at making music…and the reason why is simply because he never holds anything back…he has the courage to follow his vision for sound and the wisdom & capability to explore its depths, wherever it may take him. There’s a natural and honest sound to his music that comes from the heart of an artist being as open, raw and real with us all as can possibly be done through music – and it’s that intense connection he has to his material that translates right to us as listeners and connects us to him in response. Job extremely well done once again – Aidan Koop makes music to experience with your mind, body & soul on quiet spaces.
Find out more about Aidan Koop at his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/aidan.koop