Ensemble Pearl came together to record material that Sunn 0)))'s Stephen O'Malley had written for the production of director and choreographer Giesele Vienne's This Is How You Will Disappear, with text by poet and novelist Dennis Cooper and other serial music by DACM's Peter Rehberg (not represented here). The band O'Malley assembled for this recording includes Michio Kurihara of Ghost, Boris drummer Atsuo, and William Herzog from Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter, with participation from string players Eyvind Kang and Timba Harris. Given its slow, unraveling pace and its atmospheric feel, it's tempting to assume that Ensemble Pearl are under the influence umbrella of post-Hex Earth. But these six tracks float and hover more; they don't evoke the physically arid terrain of that reference, but an emotionally, psychologically ambiguous one. It's extremely "heavy," but that's in terms of darkness and paranoia quotients, not playing style. The hour-long set is divided in half. Its shorter, more formal pieces appear on the first half. "Painting on a Corpse" offers Atsuo's repetitive rolling tom-toms and O'Malley's Morricone-esque guitar figures playing an alternating two-note vamp, illustrated by Kurihara's reverb-laden, whammy bar chords and droning feedback "solo" in the second half, creating the feel of catharsis without actually getting there. "Wray" is almost ambient, with shimmering guitar lines overshadowed by the strings. "Island Epiphany" is a slow, churning crawl with a barely there rhythm by Atsuo; the guitarists tentatively move around one another until volume and dynamic shift considerably via Herzog's detuned bassline, making the drone aspect pervasive; the entire cut then throbs with low-end oppression, lightened only by Kurihara's elegantly textured -- though sparing -- high notes. "Giant" is over ten minutes of dark, nearly ambient drone sans percussion, while the nearly 20-minute closer, "Sexy Angle," uses dub effects on the drum kit and long, extended, mid-range guitar phrases and notes. Kurihara's elegantly controlled feedback and Kang's emotive, distorted viola eventually rip it open and make it bleed. Given its length and glacial pacing, Ensemble Pearl may not resonate for all fans of O'Malley's -- or his collaborators -- other projects, but it is a singular work that offers considerable rewards for those who will engage with it on its own terms.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek