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Pulsar - Memory Ashes CD (album) cover

MEMORY ASHES

Pulsar

 

Symphonic Prog

3.70 | 33 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
4 stars The veteran French proggers of Pulsar hadn't released a studio album in almost twenty years before their surprise reunion in 2007. Even more surprising was the fresh charge in their creative batteries, after two decades on the back shelf. This wasn't another aging band taking a final lap around the nostalgia circuit, but an older, wiser Pulsar: more relaxed but no less vital on their belated return to center stage, sounding like they had never been away.

The classic line-up from the 1970s was still intact. And the music, as always a melancholy blend of symphonic Space Rock, was richer and more romantic than ever. The four-part, twenty-six minute title track has to be one of the most easygoing epics ever written, trading the atmospheric energy of earlier Pulsar albums for gorgeous melodies and effortless rhythms: imagine a more celestial Bryan Ferry, wearing a NASA space helmet over his usual tuxedo.

It's true the music flirts at times with glossy New Age whitewash, but it also features moments of aching instrumental beauty, first heard in the opening minutes of lush, industrial ambiance (not an oxymoron, with this band). The luxurious keyboards of Jacques Roman, augmented by clarinet, cello, and a guest player credited simply with 'noise', help keep the suite from becoming too superficial. And the whole thing was very carefully arranged, flowing seamlessly between movements while gradually shifting the tempo upward (it never really rocks out, but achieves a nicely assertive groove by Part III).

The pair of remaining long tracks, which I like to imagine as Side Two of the album, are even stronger, and musically more varied. Guitarist Gilbert Gandil rediscovered his inner STEVE HACKETT in the song "Monks", in between the moody Gregorian chants. And the closing "Respire" is a lovely, late-Floydian throwback, beautifully rendered if fairly routine, until it drifts off into a ghostly epilogue: quintessential Pulsar, and showing no signs of tarnish after all these years.

The group has now recorded only six albums in a career approaching its fifth decade, an underachievement perhaps indicating the level of attention paid to every note of music they produce. From intro to coda this one resonates with echoes of Progressive Rock's bygone Golden Age, but in a fresher, more contemporary framework. Unlike the assembly-line recycling of so many Neo-Prog copycat bands, it succeeds in keeping the fading embers of our collective memory alive and glowing.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |

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