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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

BRENDAN POLLARD: Cycles and Pulses (2022)

A Berlin School opus with a new modern sound shield that does not restrict its warmth nor its originality

1 Conflict 12:38

2 Process 17:21

3 Re-Pulse 10:15

4 Switching Cycles 14:05

5 Radiance 10:49

(CD/DDL 65:08) (V.F.)

(Berlin School)

Phrases and Protocols has marked the end of an era in Brendan Pollard's career, as he wanted to reorganize his studio and add new equipment to give a more contemporary texture to his electronic music (EM), which is still drawn towards the boundaries of vintage Berlin School. But don't worry, the friendly English musician-synthesist hasn't denied the cradle of his influences. Composed and recorded between January and March of this year, CYCLES AND PULSES is more current and still breathes with the warmth of analog EM of which the atmospheric roots are drawn from as far back as Klaus Schulze's early post-Cyborg works, while the rhythmic structures are shaped in the inspirations of Tangerine Dream. Same period! So, what has changed? The sound and the texture of the electronic tones which built the atmospheres. The taste of industrial metal floats here with a more pronounced attraction for Mephistophelian ambiences that flirt with the worlds of paranormal and Psybient. A decidedly new element in Brendan's repertoire. Available in a limited manufactured CD edition of 200 copies, all of which are sold by the way, as well as for download, CYCLES AND PULSES is no more atmospheric than Pollard's previous albums. It is designed in the same way, i.e., electronic ambient openings that develop into more complex rhythmic structures here and end in atmospheric phases. So, a typical Berlin School pattern in a new musical environment!

The winds roar and open the doors of Conflict with a bang. Sound effects with a shape of streamers come out of these gusts of woosshh and wiisshh, as well as babble reflecting the analogue era when Klaus Schulze was making meditate his synth birds of prey. The first 5 minutes of Conflict depicts the nature of the track with atmospheric elements born from a form of din that nevertheless leave the door open to a serene nature driven by medial winds. One thing is certain, our ears collect a panoply of sound effects worthy of the English musician's creativity. It's from a reverberating wave that the sequencer activates the rhythmic structure with a series of sequences jumping hastily to create a rhythmic train traveling through its conflicting texture. At the same time heavy and fluid, it snakes through the sound ornaments in oblong oscillatory loops. It is as if this 5-minute rhythm is trying to avoid the multiple sonic obstacles of the reverberating effects that burst here and there, leaving clouds of sonic radioactivity in a landscape where the contemporary aspect of EM coexists with a slightly chthonian vision of the analog years. Longer, Process is cut in the same way. Either be an atmospheric introduction, more musical by the presence of the Mellotron, a rhythmic phase, less biting than in Conflict, and a final of electronic ambiances. Switching Cycles and Radiance are also built upon these parameters with variations in the length of the rhythms. Buzzing drones, boiling phenomena and vampiric organ layers fill the opening of Process. A beautiful synth layer in the style of Rick Wright cuts this Luciferian panorama with a nice vision of seraphic harmony. Between the tone of a flute in the making and that of a misty crevice whispering serenity, this wave of aerial melody flows peacefully on a nest of reverberating materials. The contrast is seizing. The buzzing organic matter forgotten in the introduction resurfaces at the 6-minute mark. It forms a kind of tonal slingshot from which emerges the heavy step of the sequencer. Uncertain, this rhythm and its echo is charmed by a divine flute and an absent voice layer a little further. Quietly, Process begins to develop its slightly convoluted rhythmic texture with the addition of a clearer rhythmic line that floats in suspension. Finally, the sequencer lets go of 3 adjacent rhythmic lines. They merge into a uniform framework where the resonant aspect of the bass sequences, the moiré side of the melodic line and the floating vision of the 3rd element flow over a distance of about 8 minutes in a vision very close to vintage Tangerine Dream. Very beautiful and above all very good!

It's a trail of rumbling reverberations that opens the very atmospheric Re-Pulse. Synthesized bat effects from Klaus Schulze's early years and atmospheric elements, knocking and birds of prey, from Conflict's soundscapes adorn this firmament as black as a cloud of powdered tar whose mephistophelic texture cannot be dismissed from its setting. A layer of organ and snide laughter add even more darkness to the track that also flirts with a dystopian vision of Psybient that transcends the genre. In short, this is not on this bed of chthonian atmospheres that we think about love! The opening of the mystical and nebulous mists of Switching Cycles transports us to the Phaedra and Stratosfear years. Divine and enchanting on this cozy bed of reverb, the flute dances with shadows until the sequencer pulls us out of our dreams. There are two rhythmic lines that foment a slow gallop with heavy steps. Brendan Pollard dribbles his jumping keys in both rhythmic and melodic vision by bouncing 3 sequenced chords. The rhythm is more driving here than elsewhere in CYCLES AND PULSES. It oscillates while avoiding spasmodic shocks under filaments of sequences unwinding melodious silver streamers and knots of reverberations that make burst momentarily their radiances. Chthonian voices encircle the movement which gets a second boost around the 8-minute mark, accentuating an ever-galloping pace that becomes a rhythmic earworm. This track is as solid as the very good Process and offers a seductive Berlin School rhythmic approach over a 9-minute stretch. Radiance offers an opening that is true to its title with the usual EM atmospheric elements, but in a more Luciferian architecture with the presence of otherworldly voices. The organ layers float like wings without a body, initiating the timid movement of the sequencer that activates the rhythmic structure as soon as the 3rd minute. A line waddles innocently in the static flow of a resonant bass sequence to unravel into a spiral with its harmonic sequenced arpeggios. The synth traces beautiful solos that fade into a 3rd rhythm line in a track that embraces the sophistication of Process and Switching Cycles, but in a more meditative vision.

In a sonic vision painted of industrial textures as of a gothic Psybient and polyform rhythmic structures as precise as the reliefs of a laser-cut sculpture, CYCLES AND PULSES fills our ears to the rim of a listening pleasure. As usual, Brendan Pollard delivers here a Berlin School album faithful to its grandiose and exploratory past which is wrapped here in a modernity that does not restrict its warmth nor its originality. A great album!

Sylvain Lupari (June 27th, 2022) ****½*

Available at Brendan Pollard Bandcamp

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