You know how New Age constructs this unmediated version of nature with which its meditative tones will help you connect and become One? How its nebulous openness bears the mark of any and all technology? Well, artists like Pulse Emitter and his beautiful Swirlings are here to make possible a re-engagement with electronic music’s outcast hippie child, inasmuch as their quiet ambient sounds fruitfully cross the borders of purely electronic kosmische musik, minimalism, and even the noisier edges of drone. In Swirlings, the pixelated natural landscape of the album cover bears the weight of its computational production, in the same way the titles of the pieces reflect upon certain natural events re-presented as electronic events: nature was not created, it was produced.
Throughout the album, the compositions seamlessly generate interactions between spacey synth-scapes and form-giving minimalist sequences, from which a pleasing sense of simultaneous non-direction and purpose emerges. Instead of contrasting tensions, Swirling’s achievement is the harmonization of opposites, or rather, the systematization of an aural flow in which changes do not feel as such, but as slight balance shifts that continually make sense of the whole. In other words, they feel natural. In the warm core of this jewelled spacecraft of sounds, connection does not mean unmediation and mysticism, but communication and interfacing, a mechanically radical transparency that, even at its noisiest, produces that idea of organic completeness we usually call nature. It is, in other words a technological – maybe we can even go so far as to call it a cybernetic – event, an act of listening to the intricacy of an open, pixelated, 320kbps field of interactions and communicative blips.
For instance, the “Electron Central” of the first track begins with a percussive layer of synths, which, on contact with the subsequent ambient harmony, fades out without entirely subsiding, coming back mid-track to give the piece a new shape. Their interaction generates a different state, in which percussion turns melodic (percussions harmonized) and the ambience turns drone-like (hazy wayward tones given weight). Something similar happens with the fantasy of the “Fairy Tree” that follows, with the bright, almost noisy cascade that kickstarts it coming in contact with repetitive sequences of sounds and thus quietly changing course into a stable ambience. The degree of integration between these elements is remarkable, and completely overturns New Age’s reliance on homogeneity to make sense of a continuum in which the listener comes to be immersed. Instead, what Pulse Emitter does here is to provide a seemingly endless heterogeneity, a current that embraces the fickleness of thought processes as they push away and loop back: this sort of meditative state is not one born from isolation and focus, but from tuning into the multitude of perceptions and distractions that emerge from our communication with whatever our surroundings are.
As in “Space Frost” and “Ripples”, Swirlings’ ways of providing focus depend on that soft letting-go of distraction, of going with the flow of a Vangelis-like ascending and descending tone, of enjoying the sharp, layered drones of a track that seems to have no end. That seeming purposelessness marks the corresponding brightness and gravity of both “Cloud Refuge” and “Empty Hold”, a hive of activity opening the path for a quiet, almost somber album ending. If we conceive that purposelessness as the wild side of the natural, then the very premises of New Age open up in a wondrous expansion, leaving behind whatever commercially exploitable aspects of its craft. The wholesomeness is the interface, the totality is itself mediation, and there is no need for orientalist conceptions of connection: interactions between information packets, in this particular case taking the form of sound, are the only relationship needed to take a dive into the heart of the world. It is, in other words, the promise of cybernetics potentially fulfilled.
I can only hope that new acts and producers in that line of thought take heed of what Pulse Emitter is doing with a style that once seemed unsalvageable; in the meantime, open your mind, and let its RAM enjoy the volatility of the world. (David Murrieta Flores)