• Smalltown Supersound
Pearl Necklace
Soft Opening
(Smalltown Supersound)

Brooklyn duo Pearl Necklace (Bryce Hackford and Frank Lyon) has nothing to do with the ZZ Top song of the same title, and nor do they have anything to do with the accessory for preppy types, but they have everything to do with the sexual reference implicit in their name*. Or that appears to be their intention, except I don't find their music sexy.

It's not that I don't like their hypnotic, dubbed-out debut, but that I was hoping for something more overtly seductive.

Instead, sampler operators and analogue synthesizer players Hackford and Lyon, along with Alexis Georgopoulos (ARP) on synth–harpsichord and Andrew VanWyngarden (MGMT) on organ, conjure up electronic pop that isn't quiet enough to qualify as ambient nor loud enough to qualify as experimental. As influences, they cite Pierre Henry, Cabaret Voltaire, Christian Marclay, and Matmos. I also hear echoes of Kraftwerk and Eno.

* From which the Texas trio also took inspiration. Check out their "Necklace" here.

An item I recently sold on eBay
  • K.C. Fennessy
  • An item I recently sold on eBay...not what the band had in mind.

Vocals do come into play on occasion, but they're mostly wordless fragments, like the mutterings of the claustrophobic "Don't" and the sighs of the playful "Ah Ah," which operate like another instrument. Whether they were recorded live or sampled, I couldn't say, but they sound human rather than robotic, albeit processed beyond recognition, so they lend the project a handmade feel, though describing them as "warm" might be a bit of a stretch. There's a coldness here.

For the most part, Soft Opening works both as an album and as a series of singles, but the first track, "Can You Feel It?," led me to expect something more dynamic, though I dig the way "Doorbell" sounds like the score to a Jacques Tati film in which tiny cars drive around in circles honking tiny horns (Tati characters tend to repeat the same moves over and over again, much like the members of Pearl Necklace). This isn't quite chill-out music, but it isn't gonna get the party started either—not unless your social gatherings are on the somnambulant side.

Norwegian label Smalltown Supersound releases Soft Opening on Jan 29.