Describing the music of Aquarelle’s Ryan Potts is a difficult task indeed. It’s related to the hazy, heavily treated output of musicians such as Fennesz and Tim Hecker, but one would be remiss to locate it solely within the realm of electronic ambient or drone, as there are often strong organic, rhythmic and composerly elements to Potts’ work. In fact, the title of his last record, “Slow Circles,” might offer the best point of access into the Aquarelle aesthetic, in which compositional tropes such as cyclicality and accretion are woven together with surging, bright overtones, fragmented acoustic guitar melodies, and monumental distortion. Another point of distinction between Potts’ guitar-based compositions and that of the laptop-wielding contemporaries and forebears amongst whom one would be tempted to locate his sound is the fact that he largely eschews digital, “in-the-box” processing. A self proclaimed “FX pedal fetishist,” his compositions carry with them a boldness, depth and grit that is all but impossible to cultivate through DSP alone and aligns some elements of his sound with that of Scott Cortez/Lovesliescrushing and late-period Yellow Swans.
Using a palette of electric and acoustic guitars, vintage and boutique effects pedals and various percussion sources, Potts crafts highly detailed, slowly evolving soundscapes which beg for repeat listens so that one might get inside their myriad layers. “With Verticals” opens the record, blooming suddenly into a startlingly propulsive edifice replete with crackling, distorted guitar sounds married to quasi-Reichian percussion. Later, “Origin” sizzles and hisses its way into a staggeringly detailed drone opus before opening up into a veritable vista of acoustic guitar, cymbal and cello histrionics. A cohesive and fully immersive collection, “Sung in Broken Symmetry” is an assured statement from a young musician who is equally comfortable navigating frailty and violence. Mastered by James Plotkin. Edition of 300, first 50 on clear vinyl. Includes digital download coupon.
jefre cantu-ledesma: – shining skull breath – students of decay – lp – 12$ With the release of last year’s “Love is a Stream,” the solo work of Bay Area stalwart Jefre Cantu-Ledesma (The Alps/Tarentel/Root Strata) leapt into public consciousness, garnishing accolades for its transfixing melding of shoegaze pop with drone, ambient and noise sensibilities. Originally released in 2007 as part of our limited run CDR series, “Shining Skull Breath” finds Cantu mining similarly rich sonic territory with enchanting results. Throughout the album he submerges delicate, drifting guitar passages in constantly shifting webs of sound, creating buried melodies which snake and hover through a haze of tape noise. If the emphasis in “Love is a Stream” was on the subtle subversion and appropriation of shoegaze tropes, on “Shining Skull Breath” Cantu’s compositions seem a bit more opaque and mysterious, but no less moving. He invites the listener to accompany him through this beautiful fog and, in the process, offers a glimpse of rare and radiant beauty. This definitive edition has been remastered by James Plotkin and features two new tracks not included on the original release. 500 copies.