Heathered Pearls – Body Complex (Ghostly International, 2015)


Over the years I’ve come to feel that Ghostly’s releases are less exciting, less progressive than they once were, catering now to already saturated audiences and broadening their mainstream appeals thanks to the successes of people like Tycho and Matthew Dear. Maybe it has something to do with their A&R man, the one responsible for cultivating new artists and releases, Jakub Alexander, otherwise known as Heathered Pearls. Considering that both his debut and now his sophomore LP Body Complex have both been dry and predictable affairs, perhaps this is not a wholly unreasonable assumption to make.

The truth of it is that Ambient Techno is often a genre that I leave feeling pretty underwhelmed by, artists often saturating their albums with static, recycled beats that sound too slow and hollow for the dancefloor and completely unemotional and clinical for home listening, there’s oftentimes just not enough immersion for me. The same remains true here; pieces likes “Sunken Living Area” just feel dry and monotonous, its primary beat trying to skip and falter organically but failing and coming across as messy, the light synth flangings of the backfield too few and far between to sustain the strange duality that many of these tracks seem to aim for: tight and sharp beats with ethereal edges. To me it’s always the structured rhythmic sequences that bring the record down here; “Personal Kiosk” features The Sight Below and their noticeable guitar drones and glittering warpings, but the shuffling electronic beats  in amidst the expanse just drag the entire track down, it’s like having a scalpel for an anchor; the production can hardly be faulted but the presentation feels clumsy.

It’s far from being the only offending piece; “Interior Architecture Software” has some hint of vaporwaving overtones as it supplements the sterile bassline with disjointed and quirky retro synth glimmerings, this jaded and sort of pre-futuristic visage smushed up against the dismal reality of the new, more precise and faultless electronica it’s been paired with. Even when these strange internal struggles aren’t being waged, the tracks just feels incoherent and rambling, unable to form solid and collected masses together; the scramble of closer “Thought Palace” is the perfect example of this in its clunky and circular psychedelia, just a blearily passing smear of sounds kept nicely at arms length, but mid-album “Perfume Catalogue” is somewhat similar as well, falling into that dangerous, complacent dead-zone at the heart of so many records, again just blissfully passing by, totally ignorable and near indistinguishable from the low-level gumph that precedes it.

Fair’s fair, there are a couple of pieces here that offer Body Complex some redemption; “Artificial Foliage” is a roiling mass of textures, a psychedelic nest of seething currents and hazy miscellany. Sadly it’s barely more than an interlude really, but it forms the run up to hands down the best item here: “Warm Air Estate”; it’s sad to hear a track like this in amongst the rest of these since if the record had more creations like this it most certainly would be a record of note. It’s got a dark energy and pace to it that we dont see anywhere else here, enigmatic female vocals creeping out of its rising fog like we’re descending into the neon reverie of city life after sundown. I like it a lot, it’s edgy and actually feels emotionally direct compared to some of its siblings.

Is it a conflict of interest for the A&R man for Ghostly to have his own record on the label? I’m not sure really, maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if it wasn’t a disappointingly derivative and soulless creation. It tries so hard to be spontaneous and organic and parry off this juxtaposition of sharp and diffuse electronic sound that it really comes across a bit embarrassing in the final product, and the only time it feels competent and engaging is when it dumps that process and actually fires itself up. Suffice it to say that this isn’t going to be making the end of year list.