In an age where one only needs to log into Twitter to find out what their favourite band had for dinner and a celebrity wearing a dress they've worn before constitutes news, it's nice to see that some people still like to keep a little mystique. A supergroup of sorts, though one would presume they'd reject such a tag, ENSEMBLE PEARL is a quartet consisting of Stephen O'Malley (SUNN O))), KTL, BURNING WITCH etc.), Atsuo and Michio Kurihara (both of BORIS) and William Herzog joined, this time around, by Eyvind Kang and Timba Harris. Information like this, though, is secondary to the music, a breathtaking mixture of ambient and drone with influences ranging from "Hex"-era EARTH to early TANGERINE DREAM via LINK WRAY. Originally composed for the play "This Is How You Will Dissapear", the six tracks that comprise "Ensemble Pearl" have grown into something much grander than just a soundtrack on record.
Foreboding mantras slowly build up with minimal atmospheres in place of the oppressive feedback of SUNN O))). Also amongst the droning riffs, one can discern a world music influence similar to the transcendental doom of latter-day OM and lush ambient passages. "Ghost Parade" opens proceedings with a three chord drone subtly metamorphosing over time while a myriad of other effects float across the sound spectrum. Following this, "Painting On A Corpse" twins a CULT OF LUNA-esque mantra with more swirling effects underpinned by a constant, insistent drum pattern before climaxing with searing noise and sonic experimentation that MERZBOW would be proud of. All the while though, that same guitar and drum drone continues, occasionally speeding up, seemingly getting closer and closer before fading away. Sweet respite. Next comes the gentle rise and fall of "Wray" with beautiful evocative keys and strings unaccompanied by guitar or percussion before "Island Epiphany" reintroduces the drones, noise and drumming. A tangible sense of dread cuts through the beauty of the strings and keys but even at its densest, everything feels like it has its own space. Rather than rushing to the finishing line, parts are given full opportunity to develop to their natural conclusions, running the gamut from beauty to horror and from thrill to melancholy to fear. "Giant" takes ENSEMBLE PEARL's knack for creating an emotional rollercoaster over the course of one track even further with one sustained note forming the centrepiece for the most part while the constantly shifting backdrop radically alters the overall mood of the piece. Proceedings conclude with the 20 minutes of "Sexy Angle" complete with dub vibes and angular, off-kilter violin.
Put simply, "Ensemble Pearl" is an earth-shattering collaboration between geniuses unrivalled in the field of drone and their debut album as ENSEMBLE PEARL is another stunning high point in their respective careers. (9/10)
"Ensemble Pearl" is out now through Drag City