Reviews

'Pulselovers' reviewed by Grey Malkin in the Active Listener


Pulselovers, the project of Doncaster based musician Mat Handley (who also hosts the excellent 'You, The Night And The Music' radio show), is described by its creator as 'the culmination of 30 years of procrastination'. Perhaps so, but maybe also the conclusion of much careful construction, effective intuition and perfectly chosen collaboration, resulting in this superb and richly detailed début album that by turns astounds, affects and impresses.

Instrumental 'Ronco Dream' opens the album in a beautiful though ominous sci-fi haze of drone and keyboard mists, with a carefully picked guitar (by Graham Sutherland of Fallen Trees) shimmering throughout. It's a seriously atmospheric and effective introduction to the album ahead and recalls the majesty of This Mortal Coil and fellow 4AD artists in its swirling, otherworldly grandeur.

This is followed by the percussive and motorik 'It's All In The Detail', electronic clicks and echoes driving the song ever forward accompanied by glacial keyboard washes, piano (by Mat's son Raven) and suitably anthemic vocals from Handley himself. A warning about environmental collapse, it has an underlying sense of dread whilst retaining a pulsating power and the feel of the epic. 

Next, 'Soundtrack 5' is a dark slice of electronica; vintage keyboard sounds growing and layering amongst reverberated percussion and analogue harmonies. With a hint of the icy, Ballardian scope of John Foxx's classic 'Metamatic' and Ken Freeman's theme to BBC's The Tripods' this track is perhaps best listened to on a long, night-time drive through the cityscape. Allan Murphy of fellow electronic experimentalists Midwich Youth Club adds further synthesis and the track itself is a triumph, a gliding frozen thing of beauty. 

'Saturnalia', based on the ancient Roman tradition of bestowing slaves with wine, food and gifts for one day in order to keep them better in submission for the rest of the year (and with a hint that this practice may still be used by our political masters), is a spoken word piece adorned by a rich tapestry of synth strings, echoed guitar and hypnagogic sounds; a veritable electronic symphony that drifts and floats lysergically throughout to superb effect. 

'Last Day Of Summer' begins with the sound of birdsong and a ship's horn before transcending into an electro-raga, the buzz of sitar and eastern melodies echoing across a vast landscape of sound. Written by Handley during a two month stay in India this stands as an album highlight amongst many fellow gems. 

'Spirit', a twisted love song with vocals by Craig Manga (of MangaBros) lifts inspiration from early 80's synthpop and is all the more effective for it, a heartbreaking Depeche Mode style melody lifting the hairs on the listener's neck whilst provoking a tear or two. 

'Autumn Arrives' is by turn a delicate and lovely track that swells, ebbs and flows gently throughout; a mood of quiet resignation and reflection permeates as the melody makes a permanent and welcome home in the listener's memory. Fans of the Ghost Box label, the afore mentioned 4AD roster and acts such as Concretism, Midwich Youth Club, The Heartwood Institute and Polypores will find much to adore here. 

'Phantom Cinema' changes the pace dramatically, roaring into life on a pulsating keyboard bassline and an insistent cosmiche drumbeat. Hugely thrilling, this ably demonstrates the scope of Pulselovers powers; by one turn haunting and wistful by another driving and anthemic, this is an album of diverse and consistently fascinating musical jewels. 

'Red Eden, White Nights' introduces the highly effective vocals of Blurred Girl from Promenade Cinema which gives the track a 60's beat sheen, whilst album closer 

'Flatlands' is a tense, guitar and organ driven piece of carefully wrought atmosphere and mood, an electronic travelogue. 

Pulselovers then is an assured, mature and sophisticated début that comes highly recommended for lovers of electronica, hauntology and highly atmospheric, emotionally charged music. This music is alive with possibilities and imagery, its pulse is beating strongly, rhythmically and determinedly here; seek this out.  

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'Red Eden, White Nights' reviewed by Mark Barton in The Sunday Experience


Stumbled over this irresistible gem courtesy of the latest sampler set from Active Listener – volume 40 – if you are taking notes and not we admit the originally intended cause for our obsessing which again for the interested among you is ‘red eden, white nights’ – but more about that a little later as they say. Instead we followed the links – as you do – to their band camp – who you might ask – why the pulselovers – whose debuting self-titled full length has I’ll admit, been stealing the listening ear all day, an album that pleasingly defies categorization given it appears to skip, hop and jump across a number of generic spectrums refusing to sit and settle into any defined or regimented groove. For now we’ve been most taken by the track ‘phantom cinema’ – pure old school retro-sonic kosmiche, all motoric pulsars, cosmic whispers and crystalline vintage future visions from an 70’s analogue age which ought to appeal first hand to those polytechnic youth admirers among you whilst likewise tuning itself superbly and dare we say deftly into sound worlds voyaged upon by Echoboy c. ‘Scene 30’. As an added attracting detail the collective features a certain Allan Murphy of Midwich Youth Club fame.

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'Theme from The Persuaders' reviewed by Mark Barton in The Sunday Experience


Seriously, just couldn’t resist this, always one of, if not. my favourite TV themes. Even as a child the ‘theme from Persuaders’ by John Barry just smoked of cosmopolitan cool, perhaps its that Italo phrasing exuding that noir lounge chic, something that Barry explored in earlier TV arrangements such as ‘vendetta theme’ and ‘the Danny Scipio theme’ from the same series. Under the collective guise Doncaster Electronic Foundation – members of the Pulselovers I suspect – and taken from a free to download full length ‘a fourth masquerade’ (an invited gathering of sound alchemists are invited to each cover a familiar song and rephrase it by electronic means – I must admit that promenade cinema’s retrimming of Abba’s ‘the winner takes it all’ is deserving of an ear very much falling into the same soundspace as Blancmange’s superb re-reading ‘the day before you came’). Anyway back to pressing matters, ‘theme from the Persuaders’ is wonderfully stripped back and reborn as a lilting shimmer toned cosmic lounge carousel that though retrimmed of the originals lush fulsome tones rathermore pushes the mystery and mercurial quotient to the fore which only serves to raise as bit of a conundrum in our gaff, what do we do now, two favourite TV themes, both the same show, life is be annoyingly confusing at times don’t you find.

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'Pulselovers' reviewed by Nick Morfitt in Needle in the Strange


'Pulselovers' is an extremely interesting and satisfying project that pulls in many different strands of what could be tagged as 'Hauntology'. Bridging the gap between Doncaster and New Dehli and housed in a beautiful yet ominous sleeve design, 'Pulselovers' features a number of different musicians and approaches to it’s reflective yet brooding mood while feeling unified. The brainchild of Mat Handley, 'Pulselovers' unfolds a strange tale over it’s ten tracks.

Opening track 'Ronco Dreams' materialises in what seems like a cloudy mist of cymbal noise accompanied by electronic blabber. This leads into a repeating acoustic guitar phrase that has shades of the Celtic and Mike Oldfield. Reverse noises and that wooshing cymbal swirl in the background. The chord progression shifts from soothing to uneasy and back again as the dynamic builds. Towards the end the guitar breaks it’s pensive mood and goes into a high end flourish. This fades into a field recording of clattering cups and cafe atmosphere.

The sharp electronic beats of 'It’s all in the detail' step up to the plate and cut through the haze. This track features drive yet intricacy in it’s drum programming. Low key yet engaging vocals offer a touching human counterpoint over the relentless machine grind.

The Carpenter-isms of the last track come more to the fore on the appropriately titled 'Soundtrack V'. This makes me want to fire up the Gullfire for a late night cruise. A plaintive synth melody holds the track together as analogue beats jockey for position with digital tricks. There’s some alarming synth blapps at the end that leap out of the speakers, most impressive.

'Saturnalia' at first offers up a Gothic atmosphere with spoken word which soon blooms into an Eno-esque languid ode. Ringing guitar and a piano that sounds with finality conjure up the image of “an unconquered sun”. Night falls.

'Last day of Summer' brightens the mood and changes locale as the tabla pulse and droning sitars evoke a more hopeful sun. The transition from the opening field recording into the burbling synth textures and mood of Eastern promise is striking. This whole track is a blossoming evocation of a dawn featuring a nice blend of sequenced patterns and tabla improvisations, a real Indo-fusion if you will that plays out as mini-travelogue to an early morning voyage. This is perhaps my favourite piece on the album and it wears it 11 minute running time wisely , ebbing out in a singular sitar drone and the twitter of birds.

'Spirit' shifts the locale from New Dehli to the Kling Klang studio via a Gothic New Romantic nightclub.’Werkian electronics propel what is an electronic ballad featuring vocals which evoke both Tom Waits and Bryan Ferry.

'Autumn Arrives' materialises with a swathe of airy Synth pad before settling into a robotic groove. The chord textures are picked out by distant acoustic guitars as a mournful lead synth carries the main melody. Again there’s a lot of detail in the drum programming as well as Tangerine Dream-esque arpeggios which ripple through the track before dying out into random sonic clusters at the end. 

'Phantom Cinema' continues the heavy Kraftwerk-ian German vibes with blasts of percussion which ring like steam blasts and saturated analogue patterns at it’s core.The track intensifies while never losing it’s sound stage, each element in the industrial electronic stew maintaining place. Just when it threatens to explode, it re-defines itself with a new energy for the last minute or so before coming to a graceful, semi time-stretched ending.

'Red Eden, White Nights' throws the alluring vocals of Blurred Girl into the mix and highlights the warped Pop sensibilities burbling under 'Pulselovers' surface. In fact there’s an interesting mix of instrumental and vocal pieces on this here album which offers up a definite personality of it’s own without screaming it too loudly, it’s an insidious vibe which allows the listener enough headroom for imagination while still feeling a coherence in it’s overall mood of Doncaster Gothic. This song is another highlight with tasteful pianos underpinning and embellishing the rather hooky centre.

'Flatlands' brings the album to a close. Opening with more Dystopian late night Carpenter vibes, the insistent chug of bass and guitars soon pick up the pulse. Soon the drums slam in and maintain a circular motorik-inspired groove. The blend of organ, twanging ambient guitars and anguished keyboards squarely place you “in the Flatlands in the cold”. Chant like vocals emote across the barren landscape, driving us down the road to it’s singular end. The rigid rocking of the rhythm section doesn’t let up until the last second, stuttering to a halt with a terse full stop…and more Carpenter vibes. 

Overall 'Pulselovers' is a striking, immersive musical experience with a cinematic scope while not over-egging the pudding in terms of electronics and concepts. It uses it’s less is more approach wisely conjuring up something rather large and atmospheric while always leaving space for the listener to conjure her/his own visions. Again it is to it’s credit that over 10 disparate tracks with a wide array of musicians it never comes across as anything less than a band project and to see Pulselovers bloom in a live environment as well the further experimentation a volume 2 could offer up is highly intriguing.

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'The Overload' reviewed by Mark Barton in The Sunday Experience


More moonbase reclining chill dipped lounge-tronic grooving this time from the Overload, a collaborative head to head between Midwich Youth Club man Allan Murphy and Pulseovers band mate Mat Handley for what is a self titled set, which if anything, by way of a starting point, might best easily described as droid dazed star serenades moulded in the image of Air yet rephrased in vintage binary computer code. Agreeably minimalist and retro though far removed from the usual grainy musical ghost box / hauntolgist / cold war tuneage that Mr Murphy is more accustomed to craft in his many guises, instead ‘the overload’ adopts elements of la dusseldorf (‘low flying aircraft’ being the case in point) as its primary template, yet that said those of you with a thing for such sounds might well be best digging out your prized copy of the Warm Digits debut for the sadly missing in action Distraction records a few years ago, for closer comparison. Comprised of ten futuristic salutes from yesteryear all cooly calibrated in shape cutting club floor moves, ‘the overload’ is oozed in demurring Dadaist disco dialects twinkle toned in lunar wisps and whirring wirey binary bops, amid the crystal tipped ISAN motifs, here you’ll find the down tempo ice sculptured night lounge noir of the seductively stirring ‘sandcastle lords’ – just between you and me sounding like a cosmic Balearic symphonia cooked up by an ultra chilled Add N to X – rubbing shoulders with the Fort Dax inspired 70’s TV themed lunar pastorals of the affectionately nostaligic ‘gated community’. Loosely entering the outer realms of muslim gauze, ‘vermillion sands’ with its pushing and pulsing locomotive beats does have the air of the yellow magic orchestra comadeering the orient express and relocating it through unseen hazy parallel portals linking it with suavee subtly to KLF’s ‘last train to transcentral’ while the purist kosmiche kookiness of ‘the subliminal man’ is ghosted in the kind of lounge noir flavouring of an imagined early 70’s gritty warts n’ all spy suspense TV show soundtrack arranged by a brief studio head to heading between Lalo Schifrin and Roy Budd. Somewhere else ‘fortieth floor’ is pure Italo disco while ‘structure on the hill’ finds itself emerging from starry eyed murmur tones to get all rather wiggy and decidedly hippy trippy by its close leaving ‘a new society’ to dim the lights on this quite alluring kitsch kosmiche collection in pure 80’s Carpenter Betamax grooviness.

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