The melody that makes itself heard occasionally in “Potential Ride” by Mark Rushton certainly doesn’t sound tense. The effect resembles the opening theme music of The X-Files, a wavering single-note riff whose playful childlike manner serves as a kind of musical interrogative, an aural “what if?” And that’s about as threatening as it gets.
But there is tension in “Potential Ride,” considerable tension, and it has nothing to do with television reference points and everything to do with the space between that melody and the background drone in which it is heard. Rushton himself hinted at this when he mentioned (at markrushton.com), while posting the track last December, that it’s “more melodic than you normally hear out of me.”
What he was getting at was how just the slightest bit of melody can bring music permanently into the foreground, and that permanence is at odds with the background potential of ambient music, which by most definitions should be able to function as both background and foreground listening.
Rushton deals with this by pacing the melodic segments with a certain amount of hesitance, and allowing the drone to consume much of the listening experience. The result is one in which the melody is doubly subsumed, both in the hazy drone, and in time.
More on Rushton at markrushton.com.