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  Silver Line on a Black Sea  
  The Potomac Accord  
Release Date:
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One night during summer 2001 i wandered into a show not knowing what to expect from the opener. They were called The Potomac Accord, and they blew me away live, putting on a deeply passionate and energetic show. Later, i went to see them when they wandered back through Atlanta, just to see if they could pull it off again. And they did, turning in one of the best performances of 2002 on a cold night in a mostly empty Earl.

And now it is time for me to review the album. And, well, it's not as good as their live shows. I know that this is true of a lot of bands, but i think it is especially true of The Potomac Accord.

You see, their music is bleak. It is dark, cold, and lonely. It is music that screams from loss and pain. Live, the sheer energy of the performance makes this bleakness a wonderful thing to see. Live, the band build the music into a frenzy that leads to catharsis.

The album fails to do that for me. It is dark, and there is no end to the darkness. It's too bleak. So it's hard to listen to.

Oh sure, there are some lovely sounds on here. The Potomac Accord are three very talented musicians building songs out of bass, piano, guitar, voice, samples, and drums. For a self-released record it is amazingly well-produced. Each instrument is in balance with the others, and none overpowers the whole (except when it is obviously planned), and none gets lost.

But a lot of the emotionality, the real passion that the band members pour into their performace, that is missing here. And that is a tragedy. If i had heard this disc first, i might have been less inclined to go see them. Having been to see them, i am less inclined to listen to the disc because it fails to capture the sheer beauty and majesty of The Potomac Accord.

That said, there are two songs (out of the seven featured here) that seem to work a little better than the others. These include When I'm Gone This Will All Be Yours and Mail From the Queen of the West Lawrence Social Alliance.

When I'm Gone This Will All Be Yours features some really nice piano work, and ends with a stunning sequence of staccato hits from piano and drums, the repetetive broken rhythm stirring my mind to think of my own mortality. It's a really energetic tune, and the one that comes closest to catching what i know they are capable of doing live.

Mail From the Queen of the West Lawrence Social Alliance takes their basic sound of piano, bass, and drums and adds some horns and vocal harmonies. This is different for them, and i really enjoy the horn work and the harmony. I think those two elements add an interesting contrast to their overall work, and break up the album a bit. This is a good tune, and very well might be the standout of the whole disc.

There are two other tracks that are noteworthy: one because it reminds me of Godspeed You Black Emperor, and one because it givesme the willies. These two songs wrap up the album and are called All Eyes on Me and Of Plagarism and Flattery, repectively. Both feature a background vocal sample under the complex bass-piano-drum interplay of The Potomac Accord.

All Eyes on Me also has some violin sound layered in there -- although it might just be a part of the sample, i can't tell. Still, it's a nice effect that adds some depth to the music. At any rate, the sample adds a layer of depth that reminds me of GYBE. I do not mean to imply that on this song The Potomac Accord come across as an apocalyptice neo-orchestra, but rather that their use of a vocal sample behind the rest of the music reminds me of what GYBE did on BBF3 off of the Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada EP.

Anyway, moving right along, Of Plagarism and Flattery is the live stunner of the bunch. I remember standing and staring in awe as they performed this the first time i saw them, my jaw resting on the filthy floor of The Earl. This song meanders along nicely, building tension, and then positively explodes into sonic fury, with the vocalist leaning back from his mic screaming his pain and angst at the world. Stunningly well done. On album they combine this with a nifty saxaphone bit and some layered samples.

This is the song that creeps me out -- when he screams on the album, rather than feeling catharsis, i am chilled in my bones. I can sense his overwheling pain, but for some reason i have failed to connect with it. This is a limitation of recording technology i think, or maybe of the way the song was recorded. I am not sure, because the recording sounds nicely balanced and very listenable, but something is missing. I can't put my finger on it, but there is something that i am not getting here.

And the fact that "something" is missing is fundamentally disapponting to me. I don't know what it is that's missing, but by golly i want it. And that is why it is hard for me to listen to this album. However, i suspect that if i had never seen the band, and instead had simply picked up the album, i would be entranced by this song. And it is a damn fine song, despite the residual creepiness, and is still very powerful.

So, my overall verdict on The Potomac Accord is to run, don't walk, to your nearest Indie club when they come through your town, and see them in all of their magnificent glory. That is the way this music really needs to be heard.

Silver Line on a Black Sea is good, just not AS good as their live performances. Which leaves me with a real conundrum here -- Brendan insists that i put a numerical rating on the disc, and i honestly cannot decide. It's a fascinating disc, but it could be better by bringing The Potomac Acord into my living room and giving me that truly wonderful performance that they are capable of. How do you rate that? How do i put a numerical value on that?

Well, i have decided to give the album 5 sponges. It's a fine peice of work from an amazing band. It could be better -- i don't know how, but i am sure that it could be.

Related Links:
  The show that introduced me to The Potomac Accord.
The show wherein they proved that first one wasn't a fluke.
Potomac Accord suceeding against adversity.

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