Jul 08, 2021
By Caleb Campbell
Photography by Holly Depattie
Chicago-based singer/songwriter Elliot Korte returns tomorrow with his sophomore record under his moniker Bryan Away. His latest effort, Canyons to Sawdust, sees him return to his music with a newly epic scale, matched only by the deeply introspective bent of the lyrics. Korte conjures otherworldly beauty and tender melody in equal measure, calling back to the sweeping, richly orchestrated chamber pop of the mid-2000s. Canyons to Sawdust is out everywhere tomorrow, but you can listen to the record early below, premiering with Under the Radar.
Canyons to Sawdust sees Korte coming into his own as a composer, arranger, and songwriter. Following soon after the abstract opening instrumentals comes “The Lake,” a gorgeous ballad backed by a swelling string quartet, weaving lush paths between Korte’s vocals and the layers of piano. Fragile piano compositions meet sweeping orchestral beauty throughout, occasionally trailing into unexpected instrumentals detours or newfound instrumental palettes. Korte conjures an autumnal acoustic folk composition on “Special” with equal beauty as the programmed drums and chiming guitars of “Dreams and Circumstance,” on which he’s joined by Half Waif’s Nandi Rose Plunkett.
Though the record’s instrumentals verge on mystic beauty, the storytelling and confessionals remain devastatingly grounded, putting a mirror to Korte’s deepest worries for the future and innermost fears about himself. He confesses on “The Lake,” “I laugh at your tenderness, push it away,” and later admits on “Dreams and Circumstance,” “I cling to my mistakes / Then I wonder why nothing’s changed.”
Meanwhile, glassy chamber pop in the vein of Regina Spektor accompanies cutting visions of an empty relationship on “Scenes From a Marriage,” with Korte exploring the doubt and loneliness that doomed the relationship from the start on “Scenes From a Wedding.” Each song thoughtfully imagines new futures and new pains, each cutting to the core of Korte’s insecurities with incisive lyricism and openhearted honesty. They come together for a portrait of Korte in the midst of growth, looking back on who he has been and finding who he wants to be.
Korte says of the album, “Canyons to Sawdust imagines a set of possible futures both good and bad. I both find true love and end up in a passionless marriage coupled with erectile dysfunction. Joy, exploration, adventure and the utterly monotonous and mundane are all given equal weight, and are always evaluated with a realism seldom applied to our own dreams, which we usually let steep in our fantasies. A lot happened to me during the three years I spent writing and recording. A four year relationship came to a close. I had bouts of depression and increasing levels of cynicism only mitigated by the presence of the wonderful people I’m fortunate to have in my life. I am blessed in many ways and am grateful to the many musicians and people who helped bring this to life.”
Check out the album in full below, out everywhere tomorrow, July 9th.