Aaron Martin – Comet’s Coma (Eilean Records, 2014)


For many, the coma or tail of a comet is the most enchanting and beautiful facet of these celestial objects; smears of light across the heavens reflecting the dissipated ice and dust of its source. But for many the real beauty lies in its bright core, the nucleus, a mysterious and ancient craggy lump of rock and volatiles that until only very recently we little concept of what they even looked like, their details obscured by this solar wind-swept haze shrouding their identity. Aaron Martin’s latest LP Comet’s Coma reflects this mysterious and elusive air as it spins its ethereal acoustic sequences, summoning diffusely emotional atmospheres across its span.

Opening piece “A Figure Falls Still” opens to the jaded turnings of an oscillating record player, its crackling fuzz obfuscating the delicate acoustic guitar and mournful cello sequences that rise out of their damaged backdrop. The album likes to flip-flop between attitudes and juxtapositions, opening us on these morose sequences in their dying light and supplanting them with wholly more lively and upbeat motions, with followup “Lost To Light” creating a pleasant and jovial facade in its ukulele pickings, slowly built up with supplemental cello and drone currents to increase its sensation of immersion.

The title track is another piece with an illusory quality to it, drawing up exquisitely bright and shimmery, but hauntingly beautiful, drone movements across its span; it’s possibly my favourite track of the album, building itself up carefully and supplying a certain acoustic density to drive its delicate crescendo in a hopeful cloud of luscious instrumentation. “Gathered At The Edges” which chases it up is the first of a sequence of 2 minute interludes that, while pleasant, doesn’t seem to progress the album in any particularly meaningful way; electric guitar croonings are drawn out over the fuzzy vinyl oscillations once more in this downtempo, downbeat number . “Narrow Clearing” is its logical cousin, introducing fresh and crisp acoustic guitar sequences that sound like the pickings of some wholly larger and more fleshed out piece that is over all too soon, its scope confined and limited to only a few brief moments.

It’s refreshing to hear a track so lively considering the content of those it’s sandwiched between; “Poured Out, Pulled Under” feels every bit as suffocated and isolated as its namesake as its morose opening cellos disappear in the face of mournful choral chantings and hummings, casting a dark light and a heavy air on proceedings in their depressing minimalism. “Widow’s Walk” isn’t much better so far as being emotionally upbeat is concerned, crafting thin vistas of melancholic cello and various, sparse acoustic pluckings to a depressing fugue of concertina drone. It plots an interesting journey, one that slowly descends into misery as it follows its electronic reversals into more elongate acoustic movements.

I’ve listened to this a great deal over the past week or as I’ve been trying to overcome some virus I’ve picked up, and every time I summon myself to commit some words to this album I fail to find the right ones. Something about its enigmatic movements stymies me and whilst I’m pretty impressed at its presentation overall I can’t help but feel a little disappointed. I find it difficult to see the flow sometimes and I’m more impressed with tracks as singular entities rather than as a collective whole; I love its faded Modern Classical meets Folk turnings, marrying distant field recordings and hazy record fuzz to diffuse instrumentation but I suppose something’s holding me back that I can’t quite pin down. Interesting and beautiful, but oddly not very compelling for me.