There is no central gravitational point on Ensemble Pearl. Each track is a fluid unravelling of all progress; a continuous dislodging of meaning and correlation, tilting the floor beneath just as it appears to settle on a stabilising axis. Six tracks and a full hour come to pass, and I’m left none the wiser as to which way is up – it’s like I’m running towards a mirage, hurtling over thousands of miles only for my destination to melt hopelessly into the obsolete, eventually reappearing somewhere behind me.
Sound is constantly bent out of shape – prised tremolo bars send twangs of dry guitar into unsteady arcs while plummeting glissandos uproot droning harmonic plateaus, rendering everything unnervingly soft and pliable. “Giant” is perhaps the most explicit manifestation of the record’s constant efforts disorientate, bringing to mind Phill Niblock for the way in which blocks of tones forever melt out of harmonic phase; it’s both wondrous and somewhat sickening to hear a beautiful major chord bent into such ugly splays with such simple and graceful gestures, turning meditative symmetry into nasty arrangements of crooked angles and blurred lines.
Elsewhere, “Island Epiphany” and “Sexy Angle” conjure the desolation of post-Hex Earth – Atsuo settles into trundling beats of ride and soft snare, with sinister, labyrinthine chord changes left to spill over the top. Devoid of a climactic point of arrival, these tracks simply drift out to nowhere, coming to inconclusive ends that signify an abandoned search rather than a completed voyage. Even repeated listening hasn’t brought Ensemble Pearl into significance, and a large part of me hopes that, despite the inevitable frustration, it remains a slippery and intangible entity forever.