Tyler Potts made a song every week for an entire year. That kind of diligence and discipline is humbling.
Of course, sheer quantity doesn't necessarily mean much. Diminishing returns, etc. But Potts's newly issued 52 Songs, a disc of MP3s that's bundled together in a DVD case with a CD-R titled Music for Dance on Seattle's excellent Dragon's Eye Recordings, maintains a ridiculously high level of sound design over its 210 minutes.
Potts's winsome, introspective compositions skillfully blend both digital and analog sound palettes. Music for Dance (as part of the Bridge Project with Heather Budd) recalls Boards of Canada's decaying tones and emotionally charged, miniaturist melodies. A penumbra of hazy chords haunts Potts's tracks, stirring up complex, poignant feelings while avoiding clichés. The sound here, and on 52 Songs, is distinctive, handcrafted without being precious.
Such qualities spurred DER founder Yann Novak to champion Potts's endeavors. "The thing that... made me want to put out Tyler's work was that he could create such beautiful and simple things in such a short time."
Potts began developing his ear for unusual sounds in 1998 at the University of Denver. "I got a BFA in electronic media art and design," he says in an e-mail interview. "We learned about tons of different disciplines and mixed them all together. At the same time I was finding all of these great vintage Casio keyboards at the thrift stores, along with tape recorders, toys, and microphones. I started collecting stuff and having jam sessions with my friends who were highly trained musicians. We would break into school buildings late at night... and just play. I started sampling the piano first, then moved on to tape players and then started linking the keyboards together and feeding them into each other. They were toys, but I didn't want anything more sophisticated."
Potts continues to employ makeshift equipment, striving for the "unexpected results." "Eventually it all ends up on the computer in a multitrack editing software, where I tweak levels and refine the songs," Potts says. "I don't like the way making music on the computer becomes visual. I would rather create songs with just listening to the sound."
Potts cites Malian music and maverick folk-blues guitarists John Fahey and Loren Connors as inspirations. "[W]hat I hear in these different types of music is a blurring of the boundaries between texture/rhythm/melody. I find myself thinking about melody as being rhythmic or texture as being a melody. I try not to break the elements apart.
"The most inspirational thing for me is to put myself in a situation with something unfamiliar, because this formula ends up making me feel in touch with... everything around me, including myself."
SATURDAY JULY 8
Local DJ/producer KFO commandeers the decks at Seattle's most relentlessly exhilarating techno night (Krakt goes off like an ICBM the second Saturday of each month). Judging from sets I've heard of his at Oscillate, KFO will ably further the event's tradition for exceptional track selections that will double your heart rate and make you think you're in Berlin or Montreal. You got a problem with that? Re-bar, 1114 Howell St, 233-9873, 9 pm–2 am, $5, 21+.
TUESDAY JULY 11
A member of Sunaj Assassins with Mike Shannon, Ontario's J. Hunsberger is yet another big balla from oop north, a crucial figure in 21st-century Canadian techno hegemony. His itchy/scratchy, charmingly skewed minimal cuts slot right in with the Logistic/Tuning Spork/Mutek/Musique Risquée/Cynosure/Revolver gang of knob twiddlers. This Hunsberger cat will discombobulate your mind properly. With Greg Skidmore, Electrosect, KINOKO, DJ Eddie, and live visuals by the Now Device (Scott James). Baltic Room, 1207 E Pine St, 625-4444, 10 pm–2 am, $8, 21+.
WEDNESDAY JULY 12
Dude looks like the Prodigy's Keith Flint, but London's John B is actually one of drum 'n' bass's true maverick producers, ignoring genre borders like the Bush administration disregards Geneva Conventions. I prefer John B when he's in sinister/intricate mode, somewhere between early Photek and Ed Rush/Optical (e.g., "Secrets," "Olé"), but I always say that about drum 'n' bass artists. John B's 1998 album Drum 'N' Bass Visions remains a jungle classic, but he's since dabbled with electro, salsa, breaks, and liquid funk. While it's hard to imagine him going with his most menacing tracks in 2006 at a big American club, Mr. B will likely knock the sparkle right out of those bridge-and-tunnelers' shirts, whatever styles he decides to run through Element's massive sound system. And that can only be a good thing. Maybe he'll play his new, destined-to-be-huge single, "I've Been Stalking You on MySpace." With Kaos Theory's the Dowlz and Quentin J. Element, 332 Fifth Ave N, 441-4873, 9 pm–2 am, $8 adv, 21+.