June 14, 2003

Potomac Accord "In one-hundred years the prize will be forgotten"

The success of bands like Sigur Ros and Godspeed You! Black Emperor has helped to highlight that previously obscure genre of music we call 'art-rock'. You know what I'm talking about: bands that blur the distinction between classical, experimental, and, at times, heavy metal; bands that make music that's extremely quiet on record but are extremely loud on stage. Sadly, this genre will never fully be appreciated, because some people feel this type of music reeks of pretension. Of course, considering the difficult nature of the music, the personality problems of those who make and appreciate such music, it's really not surprising that art-rock is underappreciated. As Godspeed's last album was a major disappointment (due in part to the whole Godspeed concept running terribly thin) and Sigur Ros edging dangerously close to New Age, you might rightly be tempted to think that the whole genre is quietly drawing to a close, or that, at the very least, is falling out of fashion.

On their second album, In One-Hundred Years the Prize Will Be Forgotten,The Potomac Accord might easily be dismissed as yet another band at the artsy-fartsy trough, but such accusations would be unwarranted and unfair--considering there are plenty of bands who are ten times more derivitive. Instead of loud bursts of noise undercoated with some sort of sociopolitical ranting or polyrhythmic funk, Potomac Accord play it fairly cool; their music is predominantly piano-based; there's an unnamed singer--obscurity seems to be the lifeblood of this style of music--who apparently understands the concept that if you sing low, people have to listen harder, making your music much more powerful. Then again, he sings in such a flat, mumbled manner, making most of what he says rather incoherent. (Then again, listening to the words of "The Empty Road," perhaps it's best that we not know.) After all the times I've listened to "Ghost of Kalamazoo" and "Newly Fallen Century," I have yet to really understand the words. Maybe that isn't the point, though--after all we're dealing in sweeping, overwhelming atmosphere--not the small details.

Minor quibbles aside, In One-Hundred Years... is still a lovely, affecting record; it's definitely pretty, and if you're going for a sad, quiet atmosphere, you could certainly do worse than listening to The Potomac Accord. While this style of music may be mutating--it would have to in order to survive--The Potomac Accord are quite capable of surviving any changes that might sweep them under. Or, maybe, they'll be submerged and come out sounding like something else. Either way, survival is theirs, if they so desire, and they've made a wonderful record--even if Joe Music Snob dismisses them as being "too generic."

--Joseph Kyle

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