WILLIAMSON - PULSE
One Little Indian
those familiar with Astrid Williamson, Pulse
might feel distinctly unfamiliar, as this collection of ten, single-word-titled
songs takes a decidedly new direction for the singer-songwriter.
Working in collaboration with Leo Abrahams, she has come up with
a remarkable album that, for the most part, pars back the more
commercial ‘pop’ elements in favour of an ambient,
sometimes hauntingly eerie, sometimes joyful sound.
On the whole, this is downtempo electronica – music that
floats at the back of your mind rather than forcing its way to
the front. Not that this is background music in any way –
but the combination of Williamson’s pitch-perfect vocals
and the often gorgeous, minimalist music washes over you in a
way that almost insists that your mind takes off and drifts away,
before pulling you back with a lyric or a sound that hits you
smack in the face.
There are still plenty of hooks here – Miracle
is a foot-tapping song that is a perfect slice of floaty pop,
complete with soaring chorus vocals, while title track Pulse
is aptly named, as it mixes acoustic guitars and floating vocals
with a solid, but understated beat. But by and large, the songs
on this album are stripped back to the bone, allowing the vocals,
the essential music, the lyrics and the atmosphere to take centre
stage. In a world of bombastic, cluttered production, it’s
a welcome move.
Where Williamson excels is in creating haunting songs that have
the ability to resonate emotionally, and the production here,
allowing space and silence makes songs like Connected
and Paperbacks all the more affecting.
Tracks like Husk switch from minimalist
piano based acoustic backing to thundering aggression, and back
with remarkable effect. Album opener Dance is creepily unsettling
and insistent, teasing with pop elements before pulling back to
a more intimate level.
An album that may well split opinions, Pulse is as much chilling
as chill out – a work of dark beauty and emotional rawness,
with several moments of perfection. Less sometimes really is
more, as this gorgeous album proves..
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