Aquarelle: Sung in Broken Symmetry Review
Drone is a stubborn animal—artistry at once unflinching, esoteric, and aggressive. On Sung in Broken Symmetry, Aquarelle shows us once again how the beast is tamed. Patient creativity seduces the music much more impressively than techno-wizardry or brute force.
Ryan Potts, the man behind Aquarelle’s luminous curtain of sound, is often praised for his laborious—or, at least, drawn out—composition process, one atypical of a genre that prides itself on prolificacy. (Aidan Baker, for example, probably releases upward of a trillion albums each year between his solo recordings, his work as Nadja, side projects, and collaborations. Chill out, dude. Seriously.) Compared to most drone artists, Potts is downright glacial. His most popular album thus far, Slow Circles, is the fruit of nearly three years of bedroom recording, editing, reassembling, reediting, throwing it all away, starting from scratch, ad nauseum. Aquarelle, in other words, isn’t afraid to clutter the cutting room floor.
Adding to the mystique, Potts isn’t a musician—at least not in the I-used-to-play-bass-guitar-in-a-garage-band-but-then-I-went-to-grad-school sense. Rather he came from a background in music criticism. (There’s hope for us all!) Undoubtedly this colors his perspective—and if I may guess his inner workings, instill a craving for exquisite craft and challenging approaches, articulate ideas and unheard sounds. Enter Sung in Broken Symmetry.
The album is mostly comprised of simple, dulcet guitar melodies; sparkling, stormy walls of synthetic noise; inventive auxiliary percussion; and tasteful strings. Throw in a looping station and some boutique effects pedals and you’ve got 36 minutes of ecstatic electroacoustic wired for inward contemplation.
The LP’s opus and closing piece, “The Blue Light Was My Baby,” juxtaposes nostalgia-inducing acoustic guitar with overwhelming static. Intricate detail-work gets washed over by bold furls of sound, but not submerged. Like finding beauty in the wide sameness of the sea or the oneness of a grain of sand, you can hear Sung in Broken Symmetry as both big and small. With a few spins, though, Aquarelle’s forceful movements will sound minimal, and his veiled subtleties will sound epiphanous.
Listen to a few tracks below, and download “With Verticals” here. You won’t be sorry.