Do Androids Dream of Electronic Music?
Listening to Soft Opening, the debut album from Pearl Necklace, you wouldn’t imagine that the sounds bouncing around your head came from a young duo in Brooklyn. It sounds like something altogether alien, largely minimalist and more than a little atmospheric. Soft Opening plays like the soundtrack to a post-apocalyptic future.
The opening track, “Another Invocation of the Breath,” cuts in mid-measure, leaving out any kind of introduction and dropping the listener straight into its own weirdness. Sounding something like a hyperactive wind up clock backing an auto-tuned sonar signal, punctuated by the gasps of an iron lung, this track immediately shows what kind of album Soft Opening will be. There are a dozen genres that could be used to describe this music, but the one that fits best might be cyberpunk.
Subdued beats and bleakly minimal synthesizer melodies abound on this album, often weaved into atmospheric ambient tracks that range from zooming Mad Max car chases to the crushing insides of a trash compactor. During “Why Toto?” those ambient backings blur the line between organic and mechanical. Is that the sound of rain on an outside street, or plastic bags blowing in the wind? Are those rumbling thunder clouds, or marbles falling down the stairs? If Soft Opening had a color, it would be the color of a room inside a dark, hardwood floored apartment building, occasionally lit by LED flashes of blue and green from a malfunctioning computer.
The album sounds like the inside of a neglected android’s brain. Common sounds and familiar melodies are filtered through artificial ears as they grow into sketches of a strangely robotic life experience. The songs are largely repetitive and bleak, terms which should not lead anyone to believe that Pearl Necklace’s first is a boring album. It sounds surprisingly conceptual for a debut, and it deserves a listen. There are a few breaks from that bleak soundscape, but they seem to feel out of place in the album’s own context.
Listeners might expect something more sensual from a band and album that seem to enjoy ambiguous innuendo, but Pearl Necklace is giving them the world through the eyes of a machine. When computers finally catch up to human intelligence, expect their music to sound like Soft Opening.