Pearl Necklace ‘Soft Opening’ (Smalltown Supersound)

Minimalist sample performance art, complete with doorbells

Pearl Necklace, from Brooklyn, NYC, occupy the artiest of niches that lurks somewhere between the nighttime drugged-up hedonism of party animal groove providers, and the thoughtful sonics of improvising beard strokers and academics on university electro-acoustic courses. You can imagine much of this album being performed at an after-hours loft party, peopled by 20- and 30-something artists, musicians, writers and poets, each clutching a Bud and talking loudly and earnestly about Derrida, before succumbing to the huge hit of MDMA they swallowed earlier and starting to dance and trying to have sex with each other. 

Pearl Necklace, a duo with a provocative but actually meaning-neutral name, individually sample the heck out of the world around them – doorbells, records, voices, water flowing – and then get together and play the samples at each other, live, and the interactions that spring up are recorded and edited into what we have here. At its best, it’s a witty sounding collision of sounds, like on the catchy little groover ‘Doorbell’, which marries samples of, yep, doorbells, to a simple sequenced analogue burble and beat, or ‘Did You Feel It’, which sounds like something that would have emerged from Berlin in 1977 with Eno involved somehow. 

Where ’Soft Opening’ starts to lose its charm is on the more obvious sample tomfoolery, like ‘Radio Love’, its lo-res disco intro played over and over, ending up sounding like an Avalanches track that never gets started, or the stabbingly irritating ‘Don’t’. The horrible sample repeated ad nauseum is like someone playing with a Fairlight for the first time. But those mis-hits are outweighed by the more pleasurable and pretty likes of ‘Pearlfriend’ and the drunken loping of ‘Ah Ah’. The latter might have been something that hit the cutting room floor during Eno & Byrne’s ‘My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts’ sessions. 

‘Soft Opening’ is an interesting album which allows all kinds of possibilities in its loose structure and intent, and is always musical in its experimentation. Not something you can say of all noodle-fests in a similar vein. 

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