Heathered Pearls

Loyal

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Heathered Pearls' (aka Jakub Alexander, co-founder of Moodgadget Records and head of A&R at Ghostly International) debut album was made not only as a tribute to Alexander’s mother and his aunt -- pictured on the cover -- who introduced him to ambient music, but as a way of dealing with his own anxiety, as he sought to "re-create soothing environments." He has certainly succeeded, as this is a soothing record indeed. The heaving swells of opener "The Worship Bell" and the lapping wave sounds of "Beach Shelter" evoke Alexander's favorite pastime, sitting by the ocean at night. Occasionally, as on the twinkling, sun-dappled and tape-warped strains of "Left Climber," Alexander's sound recalls Boards of Canada, to whom his Ghostly labelmate and close colleague Tycho has also been compared. Dense, decayed, analog tones draw analogies with the classic ambient music of Eno et al, but the loop-based nature of the album betrays Alexander's basis in the production techniques of contemporary electronic music. Though there are a couple of tracks (notably "Steady Veil") where the sounds utilized, and the way the loops have been cut, give the impression of percussion, most of the album is completely beatless. The striking exception comes about two-thirds of the way through: just as the listener is about to nod off, Alexander shakes things up with "Ringing Temple," where pounding drums, singing bowls, and gongs are piled up into a percussive barrage which, while markedly different in tone than the rest of the album, is no less hypnotic. Whilst every track is built from a sparse palette of short loops endlessly repeated, they're all pretty short, so no piece outstays its welcome. Indeed, the brevity of the album (just over half-an-hour) might be seen as a downside, although the digital version does add four bonus tracks, including remixes by Loscil, Markus Guentner, and Alexander himself. It's impossible to pick standouts on an album like this; although each track does have its own unique subtleties, these are not immediately apparent, and they mostly sound pretty similar to one another on first listen. And while it's melodic, there are no "tunes" per se. But it's an incredibly warm and relaxing record, one to wrap around yourself like a blanket, or play in the dark as you imagine sitting by the ocean.

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