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Pulsar Memory Ashes album cover
3.73 | 46 ratings | 7 reviews | 26% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2007

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Memory Ashes / Part I (7:52)
2. Memory Ashes / Part II (7:58)
3. Memory Ashes / Part III (4:50)
4. Memory Ashes / Part IV (5:24)
5. Monks (10:45)
6. Respire (8:54)

Total time 45:43

Line-up / Musicians

- Gilbert Gandil / guitars, lead vocals
- Jacques Roman / keyboards
- Roland Richard / sax, flutes, clarinet, tin whistle
- Victor Bosch / drums

- Aurélia Dury / vocals
- Louis Paralis / bass, melodica
- Edith Chaffard / cello
- Eric Dupré / noises

Releases information

Artwork: François Requien

CD Cypress Music ‎- none (2007, France)

Thanks to avestin for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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PULSAR Memory Ashes ratings distribution

(46 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(26%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(39%)
Good, but non-essential (30%)
Collectors/fans only (2%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

PULSAR Memory Ashes reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Heptade
4 stars I was as surprised as a lot of people, I imagine, to hear that Pulsar, a semi-obscure but much talked about space rock band from the late 70s, had reformed to record again, with the original musicians. I was very curious to hear what the 21st century version would sound like.

I'm pleased to say that Pulsar's modus operandi has not changed a bit. The band specializes in languid, beautiful melody-making, the foundations of the sound being spacy guitar and layers of synths. The title suite is a four part piece that doesn't really change much throughout its length, although it does go briefly mid-tempo in part 3. Gilbert Gandil's guitar playing is tasteful and emotional, and he has wisely decided to sing in French on this recording, although vocals are very sparsely used.

There's not much else to say about the piece, except that it works just as well as ambient music as it does rock. It reminds me of the Egyptian Kings album that was out recently. Great meditational, reflective music.

The album is rounded out by two pieces, Monks and Respire. Monks features some samples of Gregorian chant and may stray too close to Enigma territory for some, but it is a pleasant listen. Respire is a quiet piece that gives Gandil yet another opportunity for some emotive soloing.

My only quibble is that the drums on this album are mixed a little high (a standard modern practice), and the snare is a little thuddy. There isn't much variety in the drumming, or the compositions in general, but then there never was on Pulsar albums. It's mood music, take it or leave it...I'll take it.

This is a welcome return by this venerable band, a classy album that lovers of the symphonic modern Camel, and the Egyptian Kings, Hawkwind and other space bands will enjoy, as well as fans of Pulsar's old classics like Halloween and Strands of the Future.

Review by erik neuteboom
3 stars Yes, this is the legendary French progrock band that made wonderful albums in the Seventies and Eighties, I still love Halloween (1977), what a mindblowing Mellotron sound! Pulsar performed on the annual Mexican progrock festival Baja Prog in 2002, perhaps this has lead to a new album. The line-up features four members of the original line-up and the guest musician Louis Paralis joined Pulsar on their latest album entitled Gorlitz in 1988.

So what about the new Pulsar sound? Well, that is a different story, it sounds more modern and quite atmospheric, let's say ambient! Especially the first composition Memory Ashes (four parts) sounds as ambient delivering dreamy music with warm French vocals, some sound collages, sensitive electric guitar work (obviously inspired by Gilmour and Latimer) and a pleasant colouring by tin- whistle, clarinet and acoustic guitar. Only part III sound smore heavy with powerful electric guitar play. Then the song Monks, you can divide it into 3 sections: first Gregorian choir, blended with several instruments, then a compelling rhythm with Floydian slide guitar runs and finally a mellow part with flute, piano and cello.

Don''t expect a Pulsar that sounds like their Seventies and Eighties albums, this anew album is beautiful but for me a bit too laidback.

Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars "Pulsar" is attempting a difficult come back some eighteen years after their last album "Görlitz". Very few bands are successful in such an approach. But this album is very much similar with their early work and sounds much better to my ears than "Conseil D'Administration" or "Görlitz".

As usual "Pulsar" will propose an ultra long song on this album. Even if it is divided into four pieces this album almost consists of one song (like "Halloween") which lasts for about twenty-six minutes.

Ambient and very soft mood for the first section of "Memory Ashes". Comparable to some "Lands End" offering. But the mood is a bit too mellow and uniform here.

The second part of "Memory Ashes" is fully atmospheric, with pleasant piano, good bass play and smooth guitar. Very melodic "Pulsar" was at its best. The emotion included in the guitar solo is a great musical experience. My favourite part by far of this long song.

The third part rocks a bit and it's not too bad. Two third are really close to "Ange" work from the early eighties (not their best of course). The last part of the song will go back to the ambient atmosphere and merge into the final section.

This long suite is best comparable with "Görlitz" (the track). Pleasant but too uniform to be great. But rather relaxing.

My preferred song are "Monks" and the fully Floydian "Respire" (no wonder since this means.breathe). "Monks" : indeed! It starts with a long choir as if a chorale of monks were singing out there. One has to wait for about five minutes to see the crying guitar entering the scene. The whole sounding very close to "Echoes" before the abyssal and spacey break. Great work and an appetizer for the closing number from which the Floyd inspiration is obvious as well.

Three stars and a pleasant return even if the past grandeur has not been matched. Maybe for their next album ?

Review by philippe
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars With this last album, the monument of french symphonic-spacey rock is back after long muted years. The original line up is re-united for the event. The supreme volunty of unity works almost the same as before. Memory Ashes can be considered as a semi- conceptual album about the aesthetisation of "past time" described as a strenght of revelation in order to escape the eternal return of the self. Memory is an operation that demystify the impotence of nostalgia. I would like to say that this thematic sums up the ambitions of Benjamin, Kafka in their reflexions about history. In fact the music of Pulsar is re-vitalised, constantly changing without breaking out the roots and the essence of their own style. The music is still fresh, spontaneous and creative, including lyrical expressive sequences, subtle meditative vibrations and many more arrangements. Compared to the first offerings of the band, Memory Ashes is much more intuitive, less sophisticated but sometimes equally substantial due to the presence of powerful and warm instrumental leads. The album starts with an eternal, ascendant new agey synthesised magma progressively covered by emotional floating guitar tones, crystal-like piano textures. The atmosphere tends to be mainstream admitting obvious references to the " chanson française". With its gorgeous, aerian and fragile guitar accents, the last part of the long suite delivers some of the most intense moments of the album. Monks is the proggiest and most complex piece you can hear. An astonishing musical hymn dominated by a superb acoustic/ electric guitar duet, suspenseful synth lines, spiritual, religious choir collages, spacious sacred flute lines (...) The ambience is simultaneously tragic and luminous. The track contains some ferocious echoing cosmic guitar leads that are reminiscence to Eloy and Pink Floyd. The track which closes the album is a mellow and delicate moving ballad. To sum up things Memory Ashes is a pleasant musical experience that features charming / touching, deeply serene excursions. Certainly the most intimate album by Pulsar but it contains too discreet proggy and challenging moments to be qualified as a masterpiece of the genre. For those who want to discover their fascinating-enigmatic and propulsive progressive hours their three first efforts remain highly recommended.
Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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

Review by Neu!mann
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.

Latest members reviews

4 stars The famous French combo from Lyon is back with a brand new album. Privately produced, the sound is perfect as usual. Musically speaking, Pulsar's music is closer now to ambient music than space or symphonic prog. Expect no echoes of « The Strands » or « Halloween ». But soft, melancholy, nostalg ... (read more)

Report this review (#163691) | Posted by Thierry | Tuesday, March 11, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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