Aaron Martin & Christoph Berg – Day Has Ended (2013)

The first collaborative album between these two Ambient and Modern Classical rooted artists, Day Has Ended.

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There haven’t been many albums this year that have left me quite as lost for words as Day Has Ended. It seems to invoke something so intimate and relatable that it’s difficult to describe how it makes me feel, despite its short duration. I often try to write something brief about the release before I go headfirst into the review itself but this time I think the music should speak for itself, especially since I’m writing this last and have written too much already.

Martin opens the first half of this 36 minute effort with the delicate acoustic guitar pecks of “Slow Wake”, a track that emerges gracefully out of the dark on harmonious violin and delicate tinklings of some xylophone relative, bobbing on the waves of the growing dawn’s warm light. This initial flurry of activity marks the moment of sunrise, the peeking of the sun above the horizon after the long night, perhaps filtering through the low clouds and sparkling on the thin frost coating every available surface. We’re not quite at that point in the year for that yet, but the wist for a frosty morning is palpable, although tentative.

“Burl” creeps in once we’ve woken up a little and cleared the sleep from our eyes, its strings plucked somewhat tersely and accompanied by bedded violin drones; meshing in the fabric below at first, but rising to the fore quickly. It has an oddly familiar feel, homely is almost the word I’d use to describe it, the same familiarity and odd sense of recognition I frequently have when listening to the home spun melodies of Free Folk. It takes a darker turn in the latter half as its violins become more distal and perhaps even more menacing, slowly drawing the curtains on this delicate but complex intermission with drawn out, almost pained notes. “Comfort Of Shadow” takes its place and we’re introduced to a more human presence in the brooding, resigned, even mournful hums and coos that open the piece. They’re voices that have seen a thousand sunrises and despite their love and appreciation at the beauty of this recognisable event ultimately resent the fact that it symbolises the start of something they dislike.

It shifts into the last track of Martin’s before Berg arrives, the stunning “Night Never Came”, possibly my favourite off the album. Bold organ cuts through the fugue like some sort of ode to the day passed by, a curiously big and bold piece that seems to celebrate at its passing, welcoming the night and its oppressive darkness at last. As it invites the heart wrenching cello back again; its repetitive melody once again reinforces the depressive realisation of routine and familiarity that Martin has made firm in his half. The sunlight only serves to highlight that which we dont want to face, content to sit in the dark and wallow in our own self-pity. Christoph Berg is keen to follow this up with his first piece, “Pillows”.  Facing the optimism of the outside world has been a stressful prospect but here we are now, back in bed with the night stretching out ahead of us at last, sounding unencumbered and even slightly happy as a low drone rumbles in the background, ushering sleep, attended by the usual suspects of violin to soothe our thoughts.

“Today Has Been Alright” decides to sit back and ruminate a little on the events. It’s quiet at first as it settles in, casting its mind back. The haze of drone and piano clears with realisation and slowly a more uncomfortable sound is brought back again, with a slowly rotating melody in the sparse piano and ethereal violin never resting, sitting like an uneasy load at the forefront of our mind. What regretful or embarrassing things have we done today that our brain can once more repeat ad nauseam  as we try to get to sleep? The starkness and minimalism sounds almost at odds to the feelings it invokes, almost like it’s taunting us, hovering close like an annoying fly. It ends rather abruptly to move into the comparatively lighter “Things Are Sorted, Finally”, those internal struggles having been wrestled with for 6 minutes finally behind us. Slowly it feels like the music is becoming more distal and focusing less on the acoustic aspects and more on the less tangible drones that are starting to make a real appearance. It floats, cruises, along almost merrily, the drone warm and thick and only occasionally disturbed by light and regular percussive beats, like eddies in the smooth waters. It cycles, but so slowly and effortlessly we can barely make it out, like the slow count of sheep as we approach sleep, the numbers blurring into one another, diffusing.

Finally, “Coda” closes this beautiful little album and I couldnt ask for a more stunning end. Our little world-weary mind has finally gone under, finally allowed to be left to its own devices in the dark warm sanctity of the bed sheets. The drone bobs and swirls distantly, with delicate violin serenading us as we slumber, the guitar making a token appearance also towards the end to round it out and create a sense of completion, of returning to the beginning and resetting ready for another day.

There are a number of ways this album can be tackled, can be interpreted. Me, I feel like Day Has Ended charts the life of someone uncomfortable in the world, too distressed by the notion of having to go out each day and go through the same rigmarole as yesterday and the day before and the day a year past. It’s the story of someone who doesn’t want their life to be counted in days but rather in nights, who sees sleep as one of the few comforts left in life, where they’re able to fully escape the problems and concerns they must tackle tomorrow, just like yesterday. It makes use of only a few instruments but it’s cleverly devised and the segue between the two artists is practically seamless; there are few instances I can think of where a collaboration has been more perfect. It’s a lovely album; somewhat depressing and melancholy to be sure but it has an intimacy and a quiet shyness to it that I really admire.

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One thought on “Aaron Martin & Christoph Berg – Day Has Ended (2013)

  1. Pingback: North Atlantic Drift & Northumbria – Split (Polar Seas Recordings, 2014) | HearFeel

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