a closer listen

Aquarelle ~ Leave Corners

Autumn is a time for reflection and evaluation, a pause before giving thanks, an opportunity to put all things into perspective.  Four years after August Undone, Ryan Potts again releases an album that is perfect for fall, its measured pace and autumnal tones as gorgeous as the changing of the leaves.  There’s even time for silence, as demonstrated by the pauses between chords on “Open Absence pt. 1”.

The title is a reference to Leviticus 23:22:  When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger.  Aquarelle is generous in tone as well as in time, the warmth of his compositions suffused with an inner light.  Compared to the relative stillness of “pt. 1”, “pt. 2” sounds like a harvest, the instruments slowly surging forth like vegetables from fertile soil, the hums like the threshing of grain.  But even here, there’s room for inner peace, as evidenced by the patience of the acoustic guitar.  Orchestral timbres create the soothing atmosphere; the album lands on the pillowed side of drone.  This is music of safety, of belonging, of the end of the day when all things are put away.  To stretch the title, there are no corners, nothing to startle or hurt.  Instead, a feeling of blessedness washes over the listener, never more apparent than in the bells of “Brass Logic”.  But as Leviticus implies, when one’s cup runs over, it’s better to share one’s bounty than it is to hoard it.

The term aquarelle refers to “a style of painting using transparent watercolors”.  This gentle touch is applied to Potts’ entire discography, but is especially present here.  Leave Corners attempts to paint a thin layer of peace upon the listener, and by extension, the world.  If the final fading chords linger in the mind, then the album has done its job.  When the music ends, we’re a little bit quieter, our souls a little bit calmer ~ perhaps as a result our actions will be a little bit kinder as well.  (Richard Allen)