Saturday, 31 August 2019
Pendro - The Subconscious Place.
Album: The Subconscious Palace
Label: Kafka’s Kitten
Catalogue no: KK13
1. Caught Circuits
3. Revolt & Relapse
4. Slow-motion Satori
5. Neon Reverie
6. House on the Hill
7. A Merging of Effigies
8. Dappled Light Movements
9. Chewing the Frequencies
10. The Obsidian Axis
11. Mirage of Fear
12. An Insect Eye
The Kafka’s Kitten music label operates out of Gainesville, Florida, and this is the first of their releases I’ve reviewed. I found this by rifling through some of the Facebook groups devoted to non-mainstream underground and experimental music and just happened upon a link to it. Don’t ask me why, but for some enigmatic reason I just felt attracted to investigate it and so I did. I’m glad I did as it turned out to be a little treasure-house of joyful experimentation and sonic exploration.
Starting with a kind of looped rattle in a tin can noise, ‘Caught Circuits’ hastily develops into an electronic maelstrom, including rasps, blips and bleeps, rhythmic sequences, overloaded circuitry, and some crunchiness. Overall the effect is joyful, in a species of “let’s turn this thing on and see what happens” way. As the gateway to this album, it’s a promising beginning. Now onto ‘Troposphere’, which the title implied that it would be more of an ambient adventure, and I was proved right: shimmering and clangorous metallic planes, ebbing and flowing gracefully, sometimes soaring high and at other times swinging low to the ground.
And the above is, essentially, the tenor of the album, an unapologetic exercise in creating short sketches of moods, feelings, and impressions of fleeting moments, as if caught by a high-speed camera. Colour and texture are in abundance, the artist daubing on his ‘paint’ thickly with thick, rapid, imprecise strokes at some points, but then at others with a studied determination. These are more like tableaux or vignettes, suggesting that Pendro uses an approach akin to that of the Impressionist painters: creating textures and shapes suggestive of movements and atmospheres, leaving out extraneous and unnecessary detail, so that the imagination can fill in the blanks.
As noted in the paragraph above, this isn’t a canvas necessarily restricted to a particular style; rather each piece is shaped in the style most suited to the idea or mood expressed. Some lean heavily to the experimental category, while a piece like ‘Neon Reverie’ has almost a ‘pop’ feel to it, albeit one that has its own definition of what that term means. A watery/metallic percussive backbeat is the constant anchor in this one, while some clean ambient chords and a counterpoint rhythm loop twinkle repeatedly just under it. One can easily imagine a rainy city, in the early hours of the morning, when there are still a few people around but the large crowds have thinned out considerably, and the neon advertising is still flashing garishly on concrete and water. There’s a particular ambience surrounding it that’s lushly redolent of nights like that. An eerie ringing atonality swoops in on ‘House on the Hill’, the following piece, which conjures up images of an old house abandoned after its last owner died, and given over to nature to become a place of wild stories and rumours. Another example of the range on offer here is “Chewing the Frequencies’, an off-kilter swirling ambient outing that has an alarming edginess to it that keeps trying to pull it back to earth.
Probably my personal favourite on The Subconscious Palace has to be ‘The Obsidian Axis’, which starts off as a beautifully uplifting series of musical drones that fly high, circle, intertwine, and chase each other before being subject to a discordant interruption that disturbs the equilibrium. This counterbalance creates uneasy and disconcerting notes, threatening to destroy whatever harmony there is – which it never quite manages to do.
The spectrum of colours, tones, and essences displayed here is kaleidoscopic, as they constantly shift texturally and sonically, with ideas emerging and dissolving, looping around each other, then follow, interweave, or be absorbed and ejected, so that nothing appears to stay still. On the face of it, it might seem to be complex in nature but, just like the Impressionist painters I alluded to above, when looked at more closely is actually composed of simple elements that serve as a framework. However, Pendro constructs these impressions and sketches in such a way that conjunctions and superimpositions fill in all the gaps, or perhaps provide the necessary clues to enable the listener to do so. And the result is a delightful album that is much bigger and broader than it might at first appear, and far more interesting in terms of the overall effect it will have on those who indulge in its many-hued treasures.
Available as a digital album only from Bandcamp:
Psymon Marshall 2019.