Thursday, November 26, 2015

Pulsar Colony - Cosmic Manifestations

This is an odd album. Despite having an engaging composition, the choices in tones and overall mix make it a fairly unrewarding experience. This isn’t an issue of everything being too raw or the kind of album that reveals itself over time, it’s just incredibly bland. Pulsar Colony’s Cosmic Manifestations is the audial equivalent of stuffing your mouth full of sandy cotton balls. The guitar tone teeters between practice amp and VST plugin, and the programmed drums take a massive toll on the album’s atmosphere. The percussion is an especially weird point because the 2013 release Equilibrium Zone has Matt Friend on drums, and is much more effective than the dry clicking we get here. Cosmic Manifestations has a sprawling and intricate architecture but all we get are the blueprints.

On paper, it all sounds great. Compelling melodies meld into one another with smooth transitions. Rhythmic strumming occasionally breaks up the pacing from the wall of sound tremolo picking to create a kind of experimental sound. Synth, lead guitars, and rhythm stack together and the vocals pop in at the right times to provide some extra focus. But, it all still sounds rather shoddy. With all of the attention that went into the narrative composition, the poor execution makes little sense. Despite the creative layering, the different instruments don’t even actively change dynamics to fit the composition. It really aggravates the sensation that the mix is too flat and dry. “Flat and dry” is problem for any band, but for a spacey/atmospheric band it’s a major issue. And, on a seventy-four minute album (bonus track included) with sprawling songs structures, it's rather devastating.

Nothing here is atrocious but some particularly questionable moments include the distracting flange effect and sleepy vocals on “The Dimensional Wolf of the Ginnungagap Singularity.” The bass tone too often booms over the mix instead of supporting the sickly guitars. Still, while Cosmic Manifestations is difficult to enjoy, it still has the strong composition and spacey atmosphere niche going for it. The thing is though, the divide between execution and composition is somewhat of a fiction. You can only get limited enjoyment out of how something could have sounded. It means that this ends up as an underwhelming release whose flaws major enough to hide the underlying quality. Normally in this situation you’d think about how this means huge improvements are on the way, but this is Pulsar Colony’s fourth full-length! It’s well past time to sort things out and invest in the project. The music deserves it.

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