Pearls is Austin-based electronic composer and Quiet Design co-owner and manager Cory Allen's follow-up to his Hearing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Hears. Ostensibly labeled modern ambient, the new recording is hardly wallpaper music, even if there is a becalmed quality to it, as Allen builds the sounds deployed into a texturally rich and dense mass that's hardly stripped-down. Presented as four connecting movements, the material undergoes slow metamorphoses as it mutates over its concise thirty-six-minute running time. No instrumentation or technical details are included on the packaging—Allen presumably wishing the material to speak for itself—but related text clarifies that his production approach involves working with computer algorithms, processed electronic sounds, complex sine tones, and acoustic instruments, among other things.
In the opening sections “Strange Birds” and “Lost Energizer,” bright, pearl-like baubles (suggestive of electric piano) meander against a droning backdrop whose overlapping layers expand and contract and whose elements weave together into a thick, opaque coagulate; the fine-tuned focus Allen applies to the sonic definition of the materials used is exceptional, as attested to by the repeated blip of a signal and the cross-channel shuffle of a textural smear during the opening section. In the shimmering final section, “Blue Eyes,” placid bass tones and willowy atmospheres appear alongside a crackling haze that's suggestive of a fireplace. There's an eloquence to Allen's material which Pearls brings into sharp focus during its patient unfolding. Everything seems to arrive at its proper time and place, neither too slow nor too fast, and the gradual crescendo that the third section, “Isozaki Clouds,” works so subtly towards is merely one example of many captured on this fine outing.