In Watershed, Cheryl E. Leonard presents three pieces exploring water in its different states. Opener 'Confluences' displays constant movement. Leonard has sourced her sounds from natural objects; so the clunk of wood on stone for percussion mimics a rush of water rattling pebbles. Floating ice tinkling the edge of a glass vocalises the gentle sway of the water around it. And, most impressively, the stream of water hitting a surface is used to produce a tone.
'Frozen Over', as you might expect, seizes this movement to stillness. It is full of loud silences and muffled, unidentifiable sounds. A sense of suffocation lingers in the piece, which touches on our exploitative relationship with the planet. The non-movement is a uncomfortable contrast to 'Confluences'. As 'Frozen Over' continues, it begins to thaw. Bells and gongs are introduced. The piece becomes violent; insistent. Its concern becomes more difficult to ignore.
The final piece, and title track, 'Watershed' adopts quite a different approach. Intended to tell the story of a river from source to mouth, it feels distant and detached. For the first time in Watershed we observe water not from within, but a position of floating omniscience. While it adds interesting variety, this piece sits uncomfortably with its fellows. 'Confluences' and 'Frozen Over' present so strongly as siblings that 'Watershed' ends up feeling like a bonus track.
Watershed is a comprehensive, sonically colourful album. It is like its subject — formless, in a constant state of change and, above all, generous.
For fans of Alvin Curran and Annea Lockwood. Watershed is available for stream and purchase here.
Words by Andrew O’Keefe