Could there be a more appropriate album title for 2021 than Hello Death? Hard to imagine one. Malcolm Pardon picked one hell of a time to release his debut album, but given the austere atmosphere throughout it makes sense and it’s connecting in a way I wasn’t ready for. Pardon is one half of Roll the Dice with fellow Swede, Peder Mannerfelt, but with Hello Death we get a firm glimpse of exactly what Pardon brings to their world.
I, like just about everyone, have thought about my own mortality a lot in the past year and listening to Hello Death is like hearing a reflection. Pardon weaves piano melodies into introspective lamentations. “The Blindspot,” augmented by soaring pads and gentle arpeggios, is an acknowledgement of all the thoughts we try to avoid. If you can push something down just a little longer, maybe it will go away. But as the piece opens up into full sonic bloom, embracing the truth that time is finite, is freeing. The letting go always holds the most power. Pardon punctuates the fact that even within that freedom lives fear and anxiety with the slow moving “Blood in Water.” Droplets fall in succession, floating in erratic patterns as synth notes flit through minor scales in the dark. Acceptance returns on “End Less Theory,” though it feels more like resignation as Pardon plays through the funereal affections.
When I turned 40 a couple years ago, a friend of mine, who had recently turned 50, told me, “Forty’s easy. At 40, you can convince yourself you still have more than half your life left. But 50? Man, 50 fucks you up. You know you’re more than half done.” I think about that all the time as another year ticks away. Those thoughts creep through “April 13th,” piano and synth pushing against the ringing howl until the bottom falls out and those lonely piano notes play you to sleep. “You get to a certain age where you know you have less time left than the time you have spent on Earth,” says Pardon.
On the surface, Hello Death is lovely; piano compositions, soft-edged synth tones, bits of melody. Dig in at all, though, and you are lost in lonely, transient thoughts, looking for the right path back into the light. Whether that place exists for any of us remains unanswered as the final notes of “Silent Rumble” echo, but Malcolm Pardon’s Hello Death will keep you company along the way.