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Aidan O'RourkeAidan O'Rourke
Album: Imprint (EP Series 2.0)
Label: Reveal
Tracks: 5

This second in the series of "music for film and exhibition" EPs from Lau fiddler, composer and producer Aidan is arguably just as thorny a proposition for the general listener than its predecessor, which I reviewed here just over a year ago. By which I mean that overall it's probably less accessible even than 1.0, which itself wasn't as accessible as Aidan's earlier Hotline album project.

I've given this new disc some time to assimilate (it was actually released back in February), but it hasn't yet yielded up all its riches for me. Aidan's collaborators on 2.0 comprise drummer John Blease (who'd made a significant contribution to 1.0), Anna Meredith on electronics, and Tom Rogerson on piano and keyboards; there can be no misreading of the empathic musicianship, but the idiom can be a touch remote. The first track of the 2.0 EP, The Burn Of The Shelter, seems on first acquaintance to rather fail to get going, barely rising above its sampled conversation by way of a rather tentative, cautious and subliminal musical landscape whose magical ambience initially feels rather flat and one-dimensional; curiously, it does make more sense upon further acquaintance however. Thereafter, rhythm plays a greater part in the compositions; Wolf Monk is propelled by a hesitant syncopated beat and woozy electronica with jazz traces, before the introduction of a winding improvisatory fiddle line to join the piano in the increasingly driven texture. Third track Rhynie builds from a pizzicato figure into a lyrical fiddle-driven motif which is then overlaid with an opaque staggered rhythm and fuller keyboard progressions before taking time out for a funkier finish. The Cabrach meanders along and around a chiming layered backdrop, whereas final track The Ardlair Tuning Fork sets its cyclic fiddle motif and minimalist keyboard counterpoint within a pulsing beat, giving way to a piano gamelan before the beat restarts and syncopates afresh for the coda.

Like its predecessor, 2.0 is not easy listening, and not all listeners will consider that the brief implicit in the definition of its title (Imprint) - that of imparting a strong or vivid impression - is fulfilled. But, again as before, one of Aidan's key demonstrable skills (aside from his proven virtuosity) lies in making creative capital out of what may seem potentially unpromising beats and textures.

David Kidman