08 04 2013

ENSEMBLE PEARL reviewed in New York Times




The new, self-titled album from Ensemble Pearl (from left, Stephen O’Malley, Atsuo, Michio Kurihara and William Herzog) features members of the Japanese bands Boris and Ghost. It is graceful and sometimes more uncompromisingly static than its predecessor.

Published: April 5, 2013


Here’s what you do with the slow, beguiling, long-game album byEnsemble Pearl (Drag City), which has no discernible leader and no singer, and seems less like a band or a recording project than an orchestrated celestial episode, or at least a planetarium show waiting to happen. Get it in your headphones; gain entry to the highest rooftop or elevated land mass in your area. Begin Track 1. Extend both arms over your head and turn your receptors on fully. You are a spire, receiver and radiator. Make a significant gesture with your hands and hold it.

The album is a set of pieces for drum set, gongs, electric guitar and electric bass, violin and viola, and in one case the single note of a piano. You hear composed notes and chords and durations, but more important and scary, you hear atmosphere, dark and precise and blown out, arranged by the band and produced by Stephen O’Malley of Sunn O))). This music is philosophical, leading you directly toward metaphor; it’s also ambient, head-clearing music. It’s about acoustic weight and echo and cycles of vibrating sound: often two lines of guitar hum and feedback, fat and thin, cresting and dipping together or sometimes carefully crisscrossing in opposite tonal arcs, shaped with pitch-bending and volume pedals; drums, played by Atsuo, of the Japanese band Boris, with soft and even finality; and ambient deep-background drips of keyboard. The guitarists are Mr. O’Malley and Michio Kurihara, the great soloist from the Japanese band Ghost, and their difference indicates the breadth of tone on this record: Mr. O’Malley’s broad, bottom-end, center-of-the-earth guitar sound offsets Mr. Kurihara’s trebly, pointed and occasionally screamy one. If you’ve responded positively to Sunn O))), you’ll most likely feel good about this record, though it is a different experience — often more graceful and regular in rhythm, and sometimes more uncompromisingly static. (If you like Tangerine Dream’s 1972 album, “Zeit,” and the earliest and slowest Black Sabbath, and maybe even sounds of weather and fire, you might find something useful here too.) Set aside a full hour. Prepare yourself with the knowledge that everything in the world subsides, and nothing adds up.



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