It is interesting to see how our musical tastes mature over time. Much of the music of my formative years was about making a lot of noise in the shortest amount of time, short, sharp musical shock treatment designed to get the job done in the time it takes to lightly boil and egg. But today with more life experience, a broader approach to music but still a thirst to find the next artist who’s music truly affects me in new and unseen ways, I find my musical taste palette a much wider place. More often than not I find my needs in more considered and understated pieces and in albums like Catharsis.
Aidan Koop makes music which is a reviewers dream. So much music follows firm templates and, good as it may be, from a review point of view you are often just reworking the same language and over used descriptions, into slightly new forms. Catharsis is not like that. It is sweeping, ephemeral, restrained and elegant. In short, it is gorgeous. And that’s my point, I have already slipped into the sort of descriptions which I would never get away with when confronted by the usual three minute pop workout or a bedroom rapper armed with a set of beats and a working knowledge of auto tuning.
What is found here isn’t really what you would conventionally call songs and so honing in on the individual tracks is probably unnecessary. Instead it should be approached holistically for this is indeed a suit of songs, less a concept album but certainly an album of concepts. Illness is the one track which stands slightly apart in that it draws on the same glacial musical movements and otherworldly moods as the tracks either side of it but it incorporates a spoken word, found narrative which just adds to the ethereal nature of the album, discussing mental issues and addiction that its title suggests. It is this disembodied voice which creates an additional layer of otherness, the end result conjuring a television left on in an empty room, talking to the world at large and no-one at the same time. Generally Aidan is happy to just paint with sound rather than words, the lack of direct communication enhancing the emotive power at work here.
It is an album which takes its time, which revels in space, atmosphere and gentle anticipation, often as interested in what is happening between the notes as the sounds themselves. It is an album of echo and restraint, carefully crafted sounds creating a sonic wake as it builds ambient landscapes of meditative post-rock. It is also an album you could describe as unique, and beautiful, haunting, ambient and otherworldly, built through seamless and graceful musical lines and leaves the listener to join dots. This is music as suggestion rather than direction. The best music is found in a place that has no need for pigeon-holes and labels, and Aidan Koop seems only to use that place as a base camp before striking out even further to explore new sonic realms.
Catharsis is a world of music like little else I have heard before wandering between modern classical orchestration and post-everything minimalism, it avoids the obvious and the immediate instead revelling in a slow burning majesty. The music broods rather than drives, chimes rather than seeking to create conventional structure and melody, often doing little more than painting musical colour to frame the anticipation and atmosphere found in the acoustic world. And it is this tense reserve which feels like the calm before the storm, the deep breath before the plunge, but tantalisingly the storm and the plunge never happen.
Timeless is a word that is much over used when applied to music, but here the perfectly named Catharsis does indeed fashion something timeless but also something without genre, location or direction. Why road sign your music for the listener, far better surely, to have them follow you off the beaten track with eyes full of wonder, open to adventure and ready to go with the flow?