- There are a few theories as to why dance artists are currently turning to ambient music in droves, and "escape" is one of them. "The club and nightlife are full of anxiety for me," Brian Leeds, a gigging DJ for half a decade under the name Huerco S., told the FADER in 2016. When on the road, he'd use beloved ambient albums—by Brian Eno, Gas, Hiroshi Yoshimura—to unwind and zone out. Soon he was making his own music for this purpose, and with the release of 2016's For Those Of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have), an LP of gorgeous ambient cushion-states, Leeds' downtime music became the main attraction.
You could say that that album fits the ambient-as-therapy model. Even in its darker moments, its fuzzy, quasi-melodic loop pieces seem to offer protection, working as a buffer zone between the listener and the intrusions of real life. On this followup, under fresh alias Pendant, Leeds further develops his ambient style, and in doing so disturbs that buffer zone. Opener "VVQ-SSJ"'s smeared chord loops overshoot bliss and reach something else, a dull roar which might be comforting—in the way that the rush of a nighttime motorway from behind a car window can be comforting—or threatening, like the approach of a distant stampede. The album's two closing tracks, "OXI-GKK" and "NMQ-HYT," likewise give off a sense of vast, undefined mass. It's hard to tell how to feel about this music, which is part of what makes it so powerful.
Within these bookends Leeds expands his sonic palette, surfacing more recognisable musical figures in the scuffed gloom. On "BBN-UWZ" it's twinkling arpeggios, which give the track some furtive motion. On "KVL-LWQ," silken keys warp and swirl drunkenly, making for the record's most playful moment. "AAE-KZT" is particularly fine—Leeds is an enthusiastic weed smoker, and this track, a sluggish pulse overlaid with shimmering synthetic tones, is stoned as all hell and very happy about it.
Not all of the album is so pleasant. Coming at its midpoint, "IBX-BZC" is the black hole around which the rest orbits. Over a vague, blurred drone—again, some lizard part of your brain registers a threat—synthetic carrion birds squawk, croak and crack bones. It's hypnotic and gruesome, and probably not something you'd stick on in the Uber to the airport.
05. KVL-LWQ feat. Pontiac Streator