Sometimes a delay can be a positive thing. Originally slated for May (and already available in digital format), the August Undone LP is now scheduled for release in – you guessed it – August. And all is right in the world, because this sounds like August: the shimmer of late summer, the heat rising off the road, the bittersweet feeling of the ineffable drawing to a close. Ryan Potts (Aquarelle) has been honing his craft for a few years, from humble beginnings (self-distributed discs with a choice of covers) to his current home with Students of Decay. At first, he sounded like other artists, but now others sound like him, which is a huge compliment to his now-recognizable sound.
This sound is an assertive drone, complimented by elements of modern composition – a sound that has grown thicker over the years, and is represented here by 64 DAW tracks that tumble over each other like waves of grit and sand. In drone, definition and varied volume are more important than the sound itself, and this expansion provides plenty of opportunities for exploration. When the strings and shaker rise in the closing half of “Within / Without”, one realizes that the artist is striving for something higher than a demarcation of notes; he wants to elevate the listener’s emotions as well. Never is this more apparent than on the album’s closing track, “Clockless Hours”, in which the all-encompassing static drone yields to a gorgeous piano and cello tête-à-tête. One can imagine the opposite approach as well, in which orchestral instruments give way to fields of fuzz; at this point, Potts can approach from either angle.
Such observations are not meant in any way to shortchange the drone, which can survive fine on its own. “This Is No Monument” morphs and grows over the course of nearly 12 minutes, retreating at times into tendrils of keyboard and guitar, exposing its innards. After receding into near-silence, the piece rides a current of organ and chime to the grand finale. This apparent spiritual connection is strengthened in the repeated tri-notes of “A Flare”, which reference Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”. No message here is overt; even the curling leaves on the cover imply beauty more than decay, yielding only a hint of a crumpling future. August may be undone, but its fallen foliage turns to fertilizer for the forthcoming spring. (Richard Allen)