PNDC - Fading Away

Tim Miller 03/03/2008

Rating: 2.5/5

A release from much earlier this year, Fading Away continues to draw praise from underground sources and isolated voices thanks in large part to Predrag Nadic's own promotion and the perpetual news cycle that exists online. Presumably picking random letters from his name to come up with the moniker pndc, the Belgrade-based one man band's debut album is an unsung gem in the increasingly popular nu-disco genre (which I have, yes, just made up).

The Serb begins his LP with 'Insufficient Pressure', an instrumental that draws nostalgically in part on fellow Eastern European practitioners of industrial soundscapes, pitching somewhere between the jarring dance of Kraftwerk and the restless miserablism of Joy Division. It's a superbly haunting opening three minutes building to an edgy crescendo, and its only drawback is that it sets an imposing precedent for the remaining tracks to emulate.

Courtesy of Housework, the vocals that appear on following track 'Pick Up Your Tears' and then throughout the album resemble a softly-spoken, masculine rasp which, although unusual, sits well with the hypnotic aura of the song, whose gypsy guitar sample is the catalyst for this moody piece. A similar atmosphere settles on the instrumental title track: built largely around one chord, anxious guitar strumming, a Prodigy-esque rhythm and a shimmering string middle eight emerge though the haze, the spell broken haphazardly by the sound of smashing glass and crashing cymbals. But, while the album is united by a commendable continuation of mood, some of the songs suffer from a lack of punch, or even a simple hook, at that expense.

Tracks 'Dream About Love' and 'Oh My God, It's True!' slip by as dreamy-cum-nightmarish montages of eerie electronic vocals smothered in effects and irksome, dissonant guitar lines that fall short of approaching 'melody'. Surprisingly though, this same combination appears to click into place on the drawn out but mesmerizing 'Such A Joke', bitterly and threateningly dark.

It is the waltzing organ of 'Merrygoround/Raven's Nest', mimicking Daft Punk and set to a grimy house beat that ends the album proper with something of a flourish, though part two of the final song descends into a mishmash of squeaky soloing, clanging percussive hits and monologue vocals. It serves to summarise rather well the album as an entity: leftfield, with flashes of Krautrock-influenced excellence and drab slabs of drizzly disco in equal measures. Although two bonus songs are also included, more upbeat and hinting towards indie as we know it, the essence of Fading Away is in its hypnotic and unrelenting mood, slate grey and oppressive as the Berlin Wall. This is not to say that it is monotonous or unyielding: it does exhibit, with persistence, those moments of raw quality. The rub is that in between there are depressingly unrewarding soundscapes that just don't cut it, and, when put alongside the success of 'Insufficient Presure', 'Fading Away' and 'Merrygoround', that is a real shame.