Jun 9, 2013

THE PEARL V2 (2013)

Ensemble Pearl is a group consisting of Stephen O'Malley, Atsuo, Michio Kurihara, and William Herzog. Other than Kurihara, all of these people played on Altar. The group's name comes from a Brian Eno and Harold Budd album from 1984 called The Pearl. On The Pearl, the musicians played quietly and sparsely to give silences a presence and make every detail equally important. Rather than being cosmic, its trick was focus. A microscope rather than a telescope, the effect was nontraditionally or obversely sublime. Ensemble Pearl was conceived by O'Malley as a commission for a theatre piece. The music itself reflects of O'Malley, Atsuo, Kurihara, and Herzog's chemistry, O'Malley's admiration of Eno's/Budd's focussed sublimity, and his life's work playing and pioneering the music he loves. Ensemble Pearl is built from multiple histories but it is also spontaneously rockish. It is allegedly informed by spectral music, but also phenomenology, "stoned discovery," and an intimate "back to basics" creative approach. In its non-competing, that is naturally occurring, intuitive environment/atmosphere, its histories come into play unselfconsciously and are all the while bound by the same vision and focus on a Pearl-ish sparseness. A chamber piece does not feel out of place surrounded on either side by guitar songs. Michio's guitars yearn in that distinctly Michio way, but he has abandoned the individual ego for something bigger. O'Malley mimics Dylan Carlson. He repeats phrases but changes them slightly. We're asked to pay attention but these phrases are returned by a guitar that sort of distracts as its strange playing makes little sense next to O'Malley's rigidity. Ensemble Pearl is not Altar and it is not Monoliths & Dimensions and it is not Rainbow and it is not Hex and it is not surf music or country music or rock n roll and yet it is an unselfconscious stoned discovery/uncovering/interplay of all of these things. It works because of the collaborators' expertise in and dedication to form, and of course understanding of when to merge a sound, offset a sound, sit out for ~10 mins, or lead the others in trying to imitate or channel the wind and waves (oh Michio!). As focussed/collaborative as it is, its images are ambiguous and if they were decided on, its discrepancies come down to each individual. The cover is a planet and a woman and whatever the viewer sees. Not simply a case of microscope v telescope, Ensemble Pearl could be a physical Hex-ish ghost town, a scene of the fury of the elements, or a psychological state (elated or despondent). Its vision/focus is ambiguity, the important thing is whatever the listener hears.


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