PAUL ELLIS: Pulse Width (2022)
“Paul sculpts here a panoply of rhythms with a good and creative use of the sequencer and of electronic percussions”
1 Ancient Paths 18:33
2 Pulse Width 13:35
3 Center of Gravity 14:33
4 Slow Velvet Murmuration 10:18
5 Lightning On The Serengeti 6:34
(DDL 63:36) (V.F.)
(Ambient Berlin School Art for Ears)
Paul Ellis' name has been echoing around the electronic music (EM) world since the American multi-instrumentalist set up his new studio. In addition to his recent work on the Dutch label Groove nl, the 3rd and final part of his Panoramas trilogy is expected this summer, he has released an album with Daryl Groetsch, The Interior Rhythms, on Cyclical Dreams in late 2021. PULSE WIDTH is thus his second contribution with the Argentinian label and, as usual, is offered only in download format. The title of the album is a good indication of what our ears will discover since Paul Ellis wanted to create an album with more rhythms, but also more changes within each track. Except for the very atmospheric Slow Velvet Murmuration, we can say mission accomplished! Flirting with the Berlin School style, Paul sculpts a panoply of rhythms with a good and creative use of the sequencer and of electronic percussions.
The result is not long in coming with Ancient Paths. Synth layers with a tone of ancient music horns offer a very cinematic vision at first. The timbre is austere with winds weaving between these horns' airs where more contemporary sound effects also circulate, adequately adjusting this duel in music that awaits our ears at the dawn of PULSE WIDTH. Duel because beyond the surprising rhythms of his new album, Paul Ellis remains attached to his sylvan atmospheric visions that give this incredible depth to the colors of his music. And these rhythms don't waste time to bloom, as here about 40 seconds after the 4th minute. At first led by sober keyboard chords falling down quickly, this linear rhythm lets go a magnificent oscillating movement of the sequencer. We are in Berlin School mode with an ascending movement where multiple keyboard chords dance, structuring melodies as evasive as the shadows of specters, and half-complete synth solos twirl over organ strings structuring a vision of early 70's progressive rock. The strength of Ancient Paths lies in the nuances on the velocity and heaviness of the rhythm which strays into an atmospheric phase a few seconds before the 10th minute. Paul Ellis takes the opportunity to restructure this rhythm, by dropping bouncing keyboard chords with an echo aura around each falling one. And this without forgetting these atmospheres with a more random approach and synth effects scattered between a structured vision and another one closer to the Psybient universe. What we discover in this very long track also feeds the phases of the next tracks to parade between our ears.
Resonant chords draw rhythmic circles in the rather atmospheric opening of the title-track. The tonal setting is speckled with various tones, both resonant and more musical, that more or less follow the rotational dance of the short circles that dissolve into this mass of sonic filaments. The latter contort to form a swarm of synth loops that twirl between orchestral exclamations of the synth, as well as dramatic shadows that fall heavily on this sequence of sound spirographs. The dramatic aspect is the heart of Pulse Width which begins a rhythmic shift around the 5 minute mark with a bass-sequence line and random sequences that converge like a herd of wild horses on a smooth plain with a beautiful, ethereal, orchestral visions of a synth in a fluty harmony mode. Frantic as a stallion race, the rhythm remains surrounded by sound effects with an organic language and vision. Using its wild side, it evolves towards a structure of rodeos and elastic horse kicks while keeping this unbridled race pace in a sound fauna that is filled with short solos and harmonic hoops of the synth. Keeping its rhythmic constancy on a long run that approaches 9 very intense minutes, Pulse Width maintains the presence of its charming solos that emerge from a tonal fauna bursting with keyboard riffs and hazy synth pads that wonderfully mix the flavors of Pink Floyd as Tangerine Dream's era from Logos to Wavelength. An excellent track that gives our ears a lot to work with!
An electric piano makes its pensive notes resonate strongly in the opening of Center of Gravity. The waves of its notes radiate a slightly metallic texture that does not detract from the dramatic vision of this powerful opening that remains meditative. While crashing, they create resonant and reverberant effects. The dynamism is such that one can even hear rivulets of arpeggios flowing and intertwining to these aerial reverb effects so to create a rhythmic structure without momentum. At times, the impression of hearing a harpist and a pianist unleash on their strings and keys is strong, so powerful is the mass of sound that radiates from those notes. Center of Gravity continues its evolution by making us enter a zone where the chords tinkle like a concert of chimes, creating a zone of sound cannons that survives to synths attacks that have been able to spread their wonders since the beginning of the track. The 3rd mutation offers a rubbery rhythmic structure modeled on the impressionistic din of this track that will command a few more listens...as no other ones. It depends on how open we are to Paul Ellis' world of textural improbabilities. The metallic timbre of Center of Gravity chords is also found on Slow Velvet Murmuration. Except that here, the impact is not the same. Between the walk and the murmuration effect of these arpeggios in a musical woodland and a delicate electronic lullaby, the tone is austere with a melancholic vision that reminds me some textures of Emerald Web, especially with the flute. It's a beautiful meditative track with an elegant keyboard that manages to make us meditative. Lightning on the Serengeti took shape by wanting to give another texture of sounds to a guitar. We hear these textures contorting over a tribal rhythm structure animated by electronic percussions in a musical setting that sounds very much like music about African wildlife documentary. And this was far from being the starting idea of this track which plunged me into my memories of the time when Vangelis was collaborating with Frederic Rossif's documentaries.
More beautiful than very surprising! And that, at the whole of the 64 minutes of PULSE WIDTH.
Sylvain Lupari (05/16/22) ***¾**
Available at Cyclical Dreams Bandcamp