Aidan’s music throughout this album Self Portrait is the sort that is far more emotionally expressive than anything simply designed to entertain or impress an audience. That’s not to say it doesn’t do either of those things, far from it, but as you listen to the gentle notes and chords of I didn’t eat tonight, and the sheer level of space and quiet they create around you, the experience becomes completely about your feelings and your understanding of the artist’s feelings in that moment. It’s soft but powerful, as if you’re right there in the room with him, and these are his secrets; this is his inner turmoil manifesting itself in a beautifully free way.
Drove home with tears in my eyes continues the ambient, reflective mood, but the set-up is not simply piano-led now. The level of space is the same, but some reverb soaked guitar notes and a vocal to match create a new kind of vibe. The lyrics add to that inherent honesty, that revealing, perhaps vulnerable realness, and the human voice brings everything a little closer to you.
These songs are almost like fragments of a tired mind, still over-thinking but too exhausted to formulate anything particularly detailed. You take on those feelings just from the space and the notes and the emotion of it all. Certain moments sound melancholy, others sound incredibly hopeful. And later on, things burst into life – the drums, the additional riffs, the vocals – all of this combines and collaborates to create a gently hypnotic indie-rock or emo anthem around you; not unlike the days of Brand New.
Things take a further step towards eclecticism, flipping the mood on its head and storming in with distortion and weight. Wax Head is a progressive rock track with some memorable riffs and a striking use of contrast between moments, really letting it hit with impact. After this, Does Art settles things down again, a simple guitar part feels familiar and comforting, distant at first, but there for you. The words and the evolving soundscape seem typically Aidan now – lost in thought, consumed by memories and feelings of doubt.
Alexithymia moves things down a more atmospheric pathway, feeling like a cinematic accompaniment to the final scene of some alternative, independent film. There’s more detail here and the experience falls around you rather than existing right in front of you. Early Waves follows and brings back the guitar and a flicker of style and optimism. This grows to be a personal favourite, the latter half sees rhythm and positivity intertwine in a soothing, organic way. Afterwards, Lost reminds you of the depth and darkness behind the project – the haunting drone of something unfamiliar emerges and is quite instantly overwhelming. You adjust to the aura fairly quickly, but it doesn’t stop increasing in intensity, gradually.
The project meets its end with a track called Where’s home from here. A fair few of these titles are notably intriguing and seem to deal with the darker or uncertain thoughts we’ve all succumbed to at some time. This last track is a fine example. Fortunately the music progresses in a beautifully raw and hopeful way. It doesn’t seem to matter that we don’t quite know where home is, this feels like home, temporarily, with just a few dashes of mild fear. A great way to close the show.
Aidan as an artist has a distinctly expressive and considerate way with creative pursuits, and his musicianship impresses throughout this project in a modest and endearing manner. Worth a listen during any quiet night in.