Pulse Emitter is a name that has been on my radar for many years, but now through the kindness of a friend (let’s all spontaneously send our friends music & other gifts in the mail more often, eh?) I’ve been introduced directly to this recent work of his in one of the funnest possible ways. Since the turn of this century, Daryl Groetsch has released nearly 100 recordings under this memorable name. He is rightly regarded as a seasoned visionary synth craftsperson, and you may be pleased–as I am–to begin digging further into his catalog via his online streamables.
Released in 2020 on his own Expansive label, this recording is synth work, perhaps analog, though he works with an array of technology that would keep us guessing. The approach here seems appropriately in line with his discography: SYNTHESIZERS (of some kind). The overall tone of this recording is dark and ambivalent. The cover art being an image of surface of the moon, or a moon-like planetary surface; alien / uninhabited / inhospitable / strange fits well. The image and the sounds here bring to mind places that may have never been inhabited by any forms of life, or places now barren and forgotten by time.
“Void Engine 1” deals in filtration-borne harmonic overtones throughout, with some segments moving from the dark / impersonal towards the sort of beautiful cosmic feelings brought out in many recordings I’ve heard of throat singing. With the overall tone of these pieces being dark and vaguely unsettling, periodic swells of harmonizing tones (the previously mentioned “majesty”) bring a partial release of the tension. As with the rest of the sounds here, these swells arrive and fall away gently, allowing the listener to feel their difference for a few moments before they recede into the prevailing sounds of foreboding rumination.
“Void Engine 2” stays further towards the dark side, with fewer harmonic tension-release moments of a subtler variety. Ultra-low, extra-ominous synth tones rumble and grind in the lowest registers, moving in and out amid mid-to-high register tones. I’m reminded of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris, during the portions of the film when we are flying over the strange planet’s surface, feeling something strange and inhuman lurking there, or perhaps we’re just tuning deeper into our own sense of isolation.
“Lunar Orbit / Lunar Surface” (re-mixed / re-worked versions of the material from Side A) stays deeper into the darkness as well, with much more play of texture than tone. Bubbling / gurgling / crackling sounds sweep, zero-gravity tumbling throughout and on top of various echo-drenched tones, keeping well with feelings of vast, black, un-caring, uninhabited space. This piece takes the form of swell-and-release, with waves of reverberating darkness rotating gently through the stereo field and gently welling and drifting into the distance.
I hesitate to say that recordings in this territory are merely “dark”, as the spectrum of emotions has more gray and overlapping areas than we sometimes give oxygen to. This recording would do well as some kind of horror soundtrack, but it would be equally successful lending atmosphere to various narratives less specifically “scary” or “brooding”. There is also a palpable sense of the uncanny and unnerving here; invitations to be humbled by wonder and quietly shaken by confrontations with unfamiliar thoughts, places and phenomena. It’s liminal and strange, often dark, but there are gradations and varied places to travel within the sound-worlds created.