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Pulsar - Memory Ashes CD (album) cover

MEMORY ASHES

Pulsar

 

Symphonic Prog

3.68 | 24 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Crossover Team
5 stars There are some progressive rock fans who are unafraid to chill and get mellow, after all one cannot dream a theater all the time! In fact, prog has always had a steady following among the more atmospheric crowd, contrary to metallic world which depended on out right rockers to be balanced out by what cynics call 'sugary power ballads". There have been historically a massive selection of artists who prefer more subdued symphonicities and create recordings that range from the pastoral to ambient, folk, electronic or even space. For many veteran musicians who seek to expand their craft, the notes in the spaces between are often even more exciting that the clichéd ones. Robert Fripp was once asked what was his favorite note or chord ever played, to which he wryly answered "Silence!" unsure whether it was a proper retort or an admonition (clever Bob!) .

Pulsar is a much storied French symphonic legend that was once called France's answer to Pink Floyd, releasing a series of critically acclaimed and very diverse albums such as the naively lovely "Pollen", the majestic "Halloween", the incredible "Strands of the Future", the strange "Bienvenue au Conseil...", my favorite the bustling "Görlitz" and after a very long hiatus, the supreme "Memory Ashes". The core members are all is still devoted to the cause, with Gilbert Gandil still holding down the guitar parts (a fluid player of the very highest calibre), Jacques Roman on the sweeping keyboards, Rolland Richard on winds and the ever muscular Victor Bosch on drums.

The title suite "Memory Ashes" is divided in 4 parts, all quite brilliantly constructed, totalling nearly 26 minutes of seamless progressive space rock , though decidedly more atmospheric than boisterous. Soporific, ponderous, suave and sensuous, the mood is like a trickling rivulet of crystal water, meandering with placid fortitude. Gandil weaves superb threads, including some slide guitar amid riveting piano modulations, fluttering synth backdrops, a steady bass and Masonic drumming. He also has a romantic-tinged gentle voice that, while not an opera star, has a vibrant originality that is most appealing. A sultry oboe makes a brief appearance with hushed choir (like 10cc's "I'm Not in Love") and really gets the dream factor involved.

On Part 2 , Roman's piano twinkles brightly, the pace is thoughtful with the bass more apparent , as Gandil searches out some nifty very "recherché" leads, the choir still swirling in the wind. The beat suddenly hardens, introducing a typical Gandil solo, somewhere between Gilmour and Latimer and Hackett, full of unassuming emotion. Pools of synthesized beauty, wisps of lush mellotron, insistent piano and the voice returns for another melancholic bow on Part 3. The pulse (oops!) gets more intense, the pace slightly more focused, with some amazing rhythm guitar riffs that are simply to expunge over. Howling mellotrons and pummeling beat really ratchet up the sweat factor, the vocals supplying only brief respite as Gandil rips out a sizzler solo. Easily one of the most underrated axemen around. The piano joins in with the squealing volume-pedal fueled guitar leads.

On part 4, the grandiose choir work provides even more excitement, the binary bass and drum beat becoming ultra-solid, the fiery solo is simply ravishing, as it duels brilliantly with the massed voices. This is buzz music, to say the least, highly intoxicating and dream- inducing. Halfway through, a moody acoustic guitar enters the silence, a brief clarinet passage giving the piece a sense of experimentation, with some slicing electric playing as well. Mournfully beautiful! But the supreme masterpiece is the thrilling "The Monks", nearly 11 minutes of the very finest space rock in its mellowest form, combining church bells, Gregorian chants, sultry flute, massive keyboard extensions and Gandil's searing guitar playing. This at first appears to be like a proggy version of Enigma but the beat is decidedly Floydian, the guitars adventurous in both acoustic and electric version, giving this stew more meat than potatoes. A brief Middle Eastern flute vibe, as well as Edith Chaffard's lovely cello (what a pretty instrument that is!), provide a sun-drenched vision of shifting sands and implacable heat. The chorale returns us to colder climes, echoing off the monastery walls, to put this piece to rest.

"Respire" is not a "Breathe" tribute to Pink Floyd but rather a more ethereal adventure with squealing almost Hawaiian guitar, whispered voice lamenting breathlessly, which suddenly gets heavier with a marshalling beat and the Gandil magic kicking it up a notch. The man's is truly a marvelous musician, just doing his own thing to perfection. A fantastic and well deserved sax interference comes into play, with some female backing vocals adding impact. Okay, so maybe it is a homage to the Ummagummans after all! Nothing wrong or surprising there! The piece just flutters on serenely, extremely peaceful and serene. Great music!

Finish with one of the most attractive cover artwork and you have a precious asteroid in your prog galaxy, orbiting unflinchingly around your musical universe. There is no doubt that some will find this perhaps too soft, but as far as I am concerned, the 'stellar' (sic) musicianship and the melancholic nature of the arrangements are both right up my warp factor. I adore all of their albums and am a big fan of this one. If you are looking for progressive chill music of the mellower variety with killer guitar, this is a great place to invest.

5 Memorial Remains

tszirmay | 5/5 |

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