This album brings together the first three Pedro EPs on one CD for the first time. The EPs in their original form have become almost impossible to get hold of nowadays, a fact which has no doubt helped in them reaching cult status amongst folktronica enthusiasts.
For those of you yet to discover Pedro, it is the solo guise of James Rutledge, who first came to attention in Dot, a band whose sound was once wonderfully described as being ‘drunken-techo’. With Pedro he has created something far more sober, the kind of music that operates as ideal background ambience.
The obvious comparisons with Four Tet are bound to be made and are justified. Oxford-educated Rutledge started out at roughly the same time as Kieran Hebden (making his first EP in 1998) and both use the same acoustic based sound with smatterings of electronic beeps and beats.
This collection starts with the fragile opener Assembled By 33, and encompasses everything the folktronica genre stands for – very simple acoustic guitar blended with electronica. Like most of the tracks on the album it lasts under 3 minutes, leaving you longing for more from these laptop lullabies.
Akira Theme, This Time Last Week and The Right Way To Play Chess are almost archaic, acoustic based songs, yet at the same time groundbreaking, being released at a time when to admit to liking folk music was akin to offering a fondness for train spotting.
Not all of the tracks on Early Pedro are solely based around a folk sound however. Lay Down Mega Man, a tribute to the computer game hero of the ’80s and ’90s, is much more in your face with big beats to the fore. As flutes join the song later on it becomes a dance-electronica-psychedelia fusion.
Hoop also has a dancey feel about it, with some deliberately poorly played saxophone in the mix, at least I hope it’s deliberate! While D.A.R.Y.L. is a beat driven little ditty with Kraftwerk influences and Field Angels and Koolhaas are both full on electronica.
Repent is one of the most interesting tracks. The acoustic guitars are a constant again but are joined by an African bongo beat and later by mournful trumpets, creating a sound reminiscent of early Mogwai. Then there is the Japanese feel of Chapel Was My Dream, which sounds like it is being played on a crackly old vinyl LP.
The last three tracks on the album come from the Pedro vs Kathryn Williams EP and feature the vocals of the Liverpudlian folk singer. Demons In Cases is a glorious tune with a gradually building whirlwind of ambience providing the backdrop for Williams’ delicate voice, which is cleverly used as part of the beat thanks to the wonders the modern technology.
To Lie Here And To Not Go Out is much more straight forward Williams, as per her own albums, with just a few bits of keyboard wizardry in the background. But if that was serene Part 2 is total madness. This alternative version of Demons In Cases, without the vocal, jumps all over the place before a full on explosion of techno mayhem at the end.