Review of Cousin Silas and Pendro ‘The Audio Scullery’

Submariner-in-Chief Rob reviews the recent work from Cousin Silas and Pendro:

The Audio Scullery is the latest collaboration between Cousin Silas and Pendro – an interesting joint venture on several fronts, not least perhaps the perceived difference in styles: Cousin Silas, a musician I tend to think of as melodic and accessible, and Pendro, who I generally consider to be a more dark and experimental sound designer. I am famously poor at identifying genres (not ideal when you run a netlabel, but hey-ho) but I would say this joint album could legitimately be described as dark ambient. It’s definitely dark, maybe not as full-on scary as Pendro’s previous album Figmentland, but certainly ominous and unsettling in places.

The album opens with the fabulously inventive Silence of Rooks. Full of foreboding, with strange bird calls, and an insistent booming drum that propels it along, not unlike the orc drums in the mines of Moria.

Altogether lighter, my favourite track is The Tempered Isle. A floating synth pad provides a bed for free jazzy piano chords followed by sublime fluid jazzy bass figures, with incidental sounds and noises laced through. It genuinely wouldn’t sound out of place on Miles Davis’ In a Silent Way (except I suspect Miles would have wanted to add at least some trumpet.)

New Aurora that follows is a shifting soundscape of electronic bleeps and glitches, reeling and reiterating, drifting in and out of focus. Part of the beauty of this track is that it’s particularly nicely judged; the noises never overwhelm the track as a whole and don’t overstay their welcome.

Incubators is dark. Properly dark. Washes of noise, unidentified animal sounds. Even the addition of analogue synths halfway through doesn’t lessen the nightmarish qualities. It’s not clear what the titular incubators are for, but whatever it is that’s being incubated, it isn’t human.

A slight reprieve from the darkness, Mandrake Drift is a meditative, floating ambient piece, full of reflection. A Glacial Swell that follows starts in a similarly ambient fashion, all resonance, almost redolent of Buddhist singing bowls, across which Silas’ haunting eBow guitar cuts through, rather like a solitary uilleann pipe.

Morphology is a soundscape, mournful and glacial. Here the sounds are slow and stretched, and dotted with radio interference, and the album closes with the fittingly entitled The Exit Road, but it’s far from a happy ending. It’s a discomfiting drone, with ghostly, disembodied voices bathed in echo. Maybe the exit being referred to here is an exit from this mortal coil?

So, feel-good background ambient music for yoga and Pilates this is not. It’s a brave and sobering listen, with Pendro’s trademark attention to textures and sound-staging. It’s thought-provoking, occasionally startling and if you enjoy your ambient dark and unsettling, you’ll find this entirely rewarding.

You can hear and download The Audio Scullery from Pendro’s Bandcamp page here.

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