Bloody Mary: Black Pearl

France-born and currently Berlin-based Marjorie Migliaccio makes a strong impression with her Bloody Mary debut full-length, Black Pearl (it's also the first artist album to appear on Contexterrior in its seven-year history). Clubby house and techno may form the foundations of the eleven tracks but Migliaccio keeps things interesting by shifting stylistic gears along the way. The album's held together by a “beauty beneath the darkness” theme inspired by the poetry of Charles Baudelaire, in particular 1857's Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil), but no familiarity with the work and its themes of erotic love, decadence, and mortality is required for the album to be enjoyed. The dark, goth-techno character haunting the brooding cuts “Spleen,” “Confession,” and “A une Passante” exemplify the theme most noticeably but Black Pearl's skies aren't always so gloomy.

The title track is the album's strongest cut, a dynamic and perfectly realized fusion of techno propulsion and elegant compositional arc. Migliaccio introduces the song's layers incrementally, starting with a basic metronomic pulse that grows progressively more urgent as the Latin-tinged rhythms get deeper and funkier at each pass. A beautiful, silken theme enters surreptitiously halfway through until the beats momentarily drop out to let the melody stand alone before kicking back in for the coda. If nothing that follows is as fabulous, the eighty-minute collection (sixty-four, minus “Black Pearl” remixes by Sascha Funke and Jay Haze) certainly stands up as solid enough. After the opener, a feverish Chilean vibe is clearly felt in the snappy house rhythms that propel the vocalizing of Señor Coconut associate Argenis Brito in “Sed Non Satiata,” and an elastic bass pulse thuds alongside a lonely, High Plains Drifter-styled theme in the house swinger “Sinina.” Danton Eeprom's distorted vocal growl in the “Semper Eadem” begs comparison to Matthew Dear, while the track's lithe instrumental side stomps as forcefully as an Audion jam. The powerful Detroit tech-house banger “Duellum” brings the funk (and then some), after which the album initiates a slow descent as it makes its way towards its end. Eschewing beats altogether, the somber “Elevation” (featuring guitar playing by Get Physical's Jona) is more dramatic classical etude than dance music. Though they're largely superfluous, the aforementioned remixes do give the album an injection of life at disc's end, and Haze's rousing treatment, it must be said, is an undeniably funky overhaul that's hard to deny.

July 2009