American Experimental Ambient producer Brian Leeds began releasing music as Huerco S. in 2011 and broke into the public eye in 2016 with his second album For Those of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have)—a spectacular double LP that won him universal critical acclaim for its club-informed method of ambient production—a style not overtly tied to the Chill Out movement of the early 1990s, but definitely of the same ilk. Now two years after that astonishing album, Leeds has returned under a new name, Pendant, and on a new label of his own creation, West Mineral Ltd., making even more ethereal ambient tracks. On Make Me Know You Sweet, Leeds’ Pendant project takes his brand of ambience a step further, detaching him from club structures and techniques by one more degree, and instead focusing on subtler developments over longer track times to reach into the caverns of different recollected spaces.
Best exemplifying this approach is album highlight “IBX-BZC”, which ends the second side of the first LP. Deeply indebted to ‘80s Dark Ambient and Industrial textures and sound design, this track sees Pendant exploring the same kind of bleak post-apocalyptic future as artists you might find on guitar-oriented albums like F#A# Infinity or Relationship of Command but instead by using only the most haunting and sinister industrial synths and samples one can craft—it therefore sounds much more like Nurse with Wound or Coil, but with the same bite you might find on more dynamic (read as: louder) albums. This song has no echo of the dancefloor—it’s seated firming in coal processing plants and iron smelting factories. That said, one cannot help but notice its gradations over time—the song’s first couple minutes set the tone for a torture chamber with smoke-y drones and metal clangs, but as it moves, the samples glitch progressively more until the “reality” of the environment itself comes in question. That dreamy quality of memory disintegration, or reality disintegration, makes this music really remarkable: almost with a Basinskian elegance Pendant is able to decompose what he has made with horrifying results.
With that in mind though, a track like “BBN-UWZ” (all of these songs are just seemingly random sequences of six capital letters divided in the middle by a dash) clearly seems out of place exactly because of how much it shares with Leeds’ output as Huerco S.: its syncopated synth—could they be called melodies?—move between the incremental crescendo of several arp patterns, both percussive and melodic. The cadence of the song’s increasing complexity imparts something closer to shadows in the city, or the echo of a night of dancing. This is melodic ambient music at its core, and while it’s certainly good and may give Huerco S fans a place to grab hold of this otherwise very drone-centered album, the song doesn’t really fit with anything around it and is ultimately less artistically interesting that much of the rest of the record.
Most of the other songs operate similarly to “IBX-BZC” with varying levels of success. The standout third song, “AAE-KZT”, moves between its echoing airy synths and heavy squelching basslines with an exceptional ambivalence not typically found in any kind of drone or ambient music, experimental or otherwise. The opener “VVQ-SSJ” adds glitching bell and metal samples over warm, enveloping drones until the tension between the two sounds eventually, after 11 minutes, causes the track to breakdown. The closer “NMQ-HYT” winds down the album with a perpetually unresolved tension, with so-so results.
But clearly, Make Me Know You Sweet is another excellent album from an able producer; however, this begs the question: is it a groundbreaking record? If one focuses on the technical aspects, the sound design, the purity of the drones, the quality of the samples and their manipulation, the answer is no—this album could’ve been made a decade ago if these sounds were as in vogue then. From an artistic perspective, well, there may be an argument to be made for Pendant’s ability to craft spaces that echo and reflect dream and reality, taking these elements from past music almost as clearly as quotations and speaking them again out of an entirely different musical mouth. This is an album that requires multiple listens to pin down its intentions, and even more listens to qualify whether or not it achieves its goals. It’s a challenging, but brilliant work—but maybe not as brilliant as his last album.