A lot of people refer to Aaron Powell as a bedroom recording genius, and while that sounds a bit grand, it’s not an overstatement: what Powell is producing out of his bedroom is a much smarter use of recording and mixing techniques than most albums employ – there’s a science to his recordings that gets stronger with every release.
And like a genius there’s a clear obsession at work: he’s one of St. John’s most prolific songwriters, releasing at least an album a year, if not more. In fact he was on our very own Borealis Music Prize shortlist just last year, and already he’s back with more music. At any given point, the top 10 most popular albums under the St. John’S tag in Bandcamp houses a handful of Fog Lake albums.
And like a genius, his work is anything but typical and run of the mill. So, there’s no doubt a little genius at work in this precocially creative and innovative artist, and fittingly, his music is a fabulous, subtle soundtrack to make your own art to. It’s as emotive and stirring as Sigur Ros or Songs: Ohia.
The songs on Victoria Park sound like feelings as much as they do music, and the way they’re composed is as original as it is compelling. Stand-out track “Shanty Town” sounds like an organ breathing, set to a spare drumbeat.
The sleepy, under-water tones of the keys used on songs like “Renegade” and “Antidote” create an ethereal vibe no other recording artist in town is approximating, and “recording artist” really is the right term for Powell. A lot of the subtle nuances in these songs feel like they were decisions made in the recording and mixing process – which means he goes beyond simply seeing recording and mixing as a necessary part of capturing the music on tape, but rather, an opportunity to use recording and mixing techniques to add something vital to his sound.
There is either growth or increased confidence on display on this album too: Powell is mastering his own sound, figuring out what works so well about it, and making that shine. He understands that a “lo-fi recording” isn’t a low quality recording, but rather a sound in itself, that turns the limitations or quirks of bedroom recordings into perks to create a minimalistic soundscape that adds to, instead of distracting from, the music.
There are times Powell’s engaging, distinct voice is reminiscent of Thom Yorke’s yearning vocals, if only because Fog Lake’s sound is innovative and emotive the way Radiohead’s is.
If you find yourself just too lazy to do anything this month, don’t bother. Instead, go lie on your couch, stream this album off Bandcamp (or buy it there for whatever price you see fit), and you’ll probably be quite taken with it. You’ll probably be surprised just how much music can resonate and lull and be bent and shaped into new sounds you’re not used to hearing. Such is the work of a notable artist.
Granted, you might just lay there and think “this is weird.” To each their own, but the album deserves applause for being anything but typical of its times. Fog Lake’s music perfectly matches the mood of the image of a foggy lake. Stand out jam might be “Antidote.” But the emotional pull and less-is-more nature of “Andy” gives it a run for its money.