Ensemble Pearl is a sonic gathering, and a better tribute to fellow drone artists Earth than Sunn O))) could be. Stephen O’Malley heads this one, also. The ever intense, ever enthusiastic Atsuo of Japanese genre-hopping darlings Boris, familiar with the ground O’Malley likes to tread (see their collaboration: Oroborus Circuit) is part of the rhythm section, Boris’ live guitarist and alumnus of Oriental psych-rockers Ghost Michio Kurihara is along for the ride too. These three would sooner create something to rival Keiji Haino’s recent endeavors if it weren’t for Jesse Sykes‘ bassist Bill Herzog’s undoubtedly heavy bass guitar acting as anchor for this ship of Noise.
The record starts off with a short Ghost Parade that mirrors the work of Earth in a peculiar way; if Earth paints a picture of bleached skulls basking in the American desert sunlight, then Ghost Parade is a terrarium of one such a scene inside of glass in a dark art exhibition, the effects, dynamic additional guitars and quiet feedback acting as the artificial exterior. Painting on a Corpse is just slightly longer, much more upbeat and dynamic, but it loses much of the intensity the album started with with the sheer amount of things going on. The surprise is that Kurihara’s guitar techniques tend to outshine Stephen O’Malley’s, wailing and screaming while O’Malley’s sits back and yawns. Wray, however, completely flips the idea of the group’s sound on its head and, at a glance, feels like the skeleton of Painting on a Corpse with its wails and growls. The subtle dynamics of Timba Harris’ droning strings and the instruments in the foreground. The whole ordeal feels more like beings reaching out to each other, never quite touching, but always meticulously thrashing.
Atsuo’s restraint is the focal point of Island Epiphany, despite the gravity of the sound that pervades it. Even when Bill Herzog loosens the reins on the two guitarists, allowing them free reign over the mix, twisting and destroying it, Atsuo does nothing but keep time, the kind of refined, simple percussion he hasn’t done since Altar. Eyvind Kang’s Erhu and strings hang well below the mix on the percussionless Giant, and punctuates each artist’s part in the song to expose their subtle interactions. Sexy Angle is far from as lighthearted as its title with Atsuo’s hypnotic, complex percussion, and the full, slow-burning effect of every artist’s continued work for the twenty minutes the track swells and eventually, after creaking under its on weight, crumbles into space and the droning of not only guitars, but slithering violas.
Stephen O’Malley has teased an idea of continuing what Ensemble Pearl is, and if that much is the case, then the only real issue on the horizon is what will Sunn O))) Become? The impeccable Monoliths & Dimensions is not far in influence to Ensemble Pearl’s debut, but will the bridge between them only tarnish Sunn O)))’s otherwise entertaining back catalog? While each other active side-project of Stephen O’Malley grows into its own separate entity, will Sunn O))) be left to gather dust?
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Listen to Painting on a Corpse
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