How we’ve come a long way since Pedestrian Deposit’s formative catalog, back six to eight years ago. In those days, PD was just Jonathan Borges and, like a good deal of noise during those days, on the harsher side of the non-music spectrum. Sure, Borges’ project had its textural nuances, but a good deal of its strata was composed of feedback, culminating in 2006 with, notably, Fatale. But since then, through Pedestrian Deposit and his solo act Emaciator, Borges began to eschew his harsh, PE gestures, instead seeking a progressively more refined and restrained voice.
After a brief hiatus, this new direction led to the reformation of Pedestrian Deposit as a duo with cellist Shannon Kennedy in 2008. Although Borges’ early compositional practice had a rich palette, often incorporating ideas from lowercase music, the addition of Kennedy flung PD’s sound even further away from the brutal side of the dial, placing PD squarely among non-improvising electro-acoustic practitioners. And, with each subsequent release in this new form, PD’s sound has diffused into sparser territories, leading to their newest LP and first as a duo, Kithless.
Released by Arbor, Kithless’ two sides present two compositions, “Under a Veil of Living Light” and “Drift Gently Down the Frigid Tides of Sleep,” from 2009 and 2010 respectively. And, like East Fork / North Fork, both prominently feature the acoustic dimension of PD’s sound, with Kithless documenting Kennedy’s cello in its most un-doctored form. For instance, during the opening 10 minutes of Kithless’ first side, we hear scant amounts of electronics while Kennedy’s cello evokes the sort of alienating resonances one might hear on Bergman’s Through a Glass Darkly, all amid minimal reverb. This motif dissipates halfway through “Drift Gently Down the Frigid Tides of Sleep,” giving way to a field recording of Kennedy shivering while she pours (presumably cold) water onto herself, a peculiar element that nonetheless mirrors the opening movement’s aesthetics.
“Under a Veil of Living Light” opens in a fashion similar to “Drift Gently Down the Frigid Tides of Sleep” with Kennedy’s unadorned cello. But instead of the first side’s two-movement structure, “Under a Veil of Living Light” builds as a single piece, slowly intertwining Borges’ electronic scrapes and howls with Kennedy’s progressively more processed cello. For brief instances, we are treated to Borges’ erstwhile outbursts, but even these moments resemble Jason Lescalleet more than they do Masonna.
That a new Pedestrian Deposit album sounds so meticulous and understated should come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to the group. In fact, thematically, Kithless makes perfect sense within the context of Borges and Kennedy’s discography. This isn’t to say that Kithless’ two compositions sound predictable — far from it. Instead, there is a delight in PD fulfilling our expectations of an album equal parts distinct, inventive, and interesting. Moreover, that we can even discern Pedestrian Deposit’s (unique) trajectory may be one of the more compelling aspects of the band. While Borges’ noise brethren have splintered in their own direction — from the basement techno of Container to the anti-folk perversion of Savage Young Taterbug (both of which are also neat) — we’ve been treated to Pedestrian Deposit’s own path that seems to still be evolving. And I can’t wait to see where this unfurling takes the duo next.