It’s the end of November. The few trees that still sport leaves will soon be bare. Winter is quickly approaching, and in the throes of this season’s short days, long nights and pelting rain and snow, I turn to the music that helps me through, tosses me a paddle and a compass when all the eye can see in any direction is varying shades of grey. It’s only fitting that I should discover the music of Aquarelle during this transition, when my mind becomes an open floodgate for all offerings of colourful drone and comforting ambience. Leave Corners, Ryan Potts’ latest LP under the Aquarelle guise, pours from the speakers with a vibrant, polychromatic energy. It is exactly the record I want by my side as winter begins to rear its head and tighten its grip.
Leave Corners begins with the two part “Open Absence,” the first part commencing with a gentle current of bowed cello strings. The piece is pocked with silences, adding heft to its emotional impact and letting the listener in on the instrument’s acoustic properties. Before long the near ten-minute second part transitions in, lifting the piece to a heightened plane. If Potts has in fact left any corners in this album, you won’t find them here, as each sonic layer is but a complement to the song’s gently rolling, fluid structure. Lying beneath the track’s foreground one can make out a soft plucking—perhaps a residual presence from the cello heard earlier—before the music winds into its closing minutes for instrumental guitar and effects.
As I briefly mentioned, this is the first I’ve heard from Aquarelle, so I can’t speak to how Potts’ music has changed and developed over the years. I can say, however, that at this stage he’s found an excellent balance between the steady-state and the orchestral. There is an ever-present feeling of a push-and-pull happening between the album’s unadorned electronics and its instrumental pleasantries. Their dance sounds effortless, but the reality is that not just anyone can put these elements together this harmoniously. One gets so easily swept up in the lightness of it all that it’s just as easy to miss the moments of noise, when Potts weaves in feedback, distortion, and sine waves into these arrangements. It’s all rather elegantly composed.
A seasonal metaphor could so easily be drawn from the dichotomy of Potts’ musical ideas, but what is more pertinent is how this dichotomy is reflected in a much larger conversation about the transformative potential of music. In terms of what we might still deem as “unconventional” music,—we’ll say for the sake of dialogue—the most affecting expressions tend to find an answer out of opposition: quiet vs loud, happenstance vs intent, structure vs decay, and in Aquarelle’s case, concurrence vs dissonance. As Leave Corners draws to a close on “The Horse Has Run,” with its funereal strings and rumbling white noise, one is left with the feeling that Potts has not hesitated in wringing out the most from his well-heeled concepts.
Visit Debacle Records for your copy.