Although he hasn't released music at quite the same brisk pace as some of his contemporaries (like Four Tet), James Rutledge has slowly built himself a solid little catalogue of melodic electronic music that glows with the warmth of actual organic instrumentation. In the past five years or so, he's released several EPs, as well a full-length of work that was all only available on import up until now. Fortunately, Mush Records decided that his work needed to be introduced to a wider audience, and thus arrives this re-release of his self-titled Pedro album (which is comprised of work created between 2000 and 2002).
In addition to slightly different artwork, this re-release also contains a second disc, which includes the entire Fear & Resilience EP, which happens to contain some of the "newest" work from Rutledge. So, the release is a bookend of sorts, and it works fairly well as a progression of sound in that way. Pedro opens with the short "Intro," and we're introduced to a chime and piano piece that is fragile and beautiful before the hip-hop infused "Fear & Resilience" follows it up. From there, "Dead Grass" sounds like it's going to be another chime and piano number before it doubles over on itself and a thumping beat and some string swells turn the piece into a snappy little instrumental pop track.
"These Pixels Weave A Person" finds the release at its most scattered, mixing middle-eastern instrumentation with chopped-up beats and squiggled-record effects, as freestyle jazz horns wail. The track never seems to coalesce into much of anything, though, and he's at his best when he drops a beat and sticks with it a bit more, as on the organs and effects drum machine workout of "123." The track, which pulls another large batch of micro-sampled musical styles, is one of the best on the entire release and somehow manages to bring the variety together under a unified and engaging track.
It's interesting to listen to this album again given the years that have passed since it first came out. At the time, it had arrived just after Four Tet's Pause and just a little before Manitoba's Start Breaking My Heart. If you can imagine a rough hybrid of those two discs, you're actually somewhere pretty close to what this debut full length sounds like. Oddly, enough, both of the aforementioned artists have moved pretty far away from those listed albums (especially Manitoba/Caribou), while Rutledge has been largely silent (although he did release the amazing D.O.T. LP as part of his other group Dakota Oak Trio). So, in a way, Pedro is sort of a nostalgic release, with a nod to the future in the form of the bonus EP. Here's hoping Rutledge puts out something else again soon.