Review: Pendro/Figmentland

Pendro is the name of Tim Jones’ experimental music and sound design project. He released his latest album, ‘Figmentland’, in March. It’s unapologetically experimental, but that’s no left-handed compliment; it’s a fiercely creative album, full of textures, cinematic sound-staging, and even emotion. It’s also an album that rewards repeated listens as familiarity with the basic shape allows some of the deeper layers to be exposed.

The album opens with ‘Stalking The Floating Brass Jaws’, brash, startling and uncompromising, effectively setting the tone for what is to come. The track includes repeating sequences of treated metallic clangs, one of several motifs that will re-appear several times during the course of the album.

The following track, ‘Black Moths’ is rhythmic and insistent, with burgeoning, distorted beats and almost dub-like echoes trailing off into the ether. The track ends with chilling synthetic wails and screams. Moths that flew too close to the flame maybe.

‘Over The Fire Glade’ that follows, starts all slow and swirling, with textures overlapping. It’s worth noting that the whole album warrants headphones to truly appreciate the ingenuity of Tim’s sound design, but particularly in this piece, as themes and motifs chase each other from side to side and front to back. The tone here is ominous, almost monstrous. This soundscape is teeming with wildlife, and possibly not all of it friendly.

The highlight of the album is the epic ‘Turquoise Lagoons’. The piece starts with a bed of gamelan-like bells, chimes and gongs, which are gradually blended with industrial scrapes and hisses. Several minutes in, the gongs give way to clarion alarms and bird-like shrieks, and the track starts to turn dark and foreboding. Like emerging from a tunnel, towards the end the gamelan starts again, this time backed by soothing major chords. The track ends peacefully enough but it’s definitely been a journey.

Just as the first track set out Tim’s stall, the final track ‘Descent To Silver Valley’ is a fitting close to the album. It’s probably the most accessible track on the album, a meditative flowing drone, with numerous textures all interweaving and rising to the surface. Then, just as you begin to think the album is closing with an air of optimism, apocalyptic bass chords fade in, unsettling and desolate. Happy ending denied.

This is an album that demands active listening; it’s not background music for cooking or dinner parties. But for the listener who can dedicate an hour, they will find their investment very well rewarded.

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