Pulseprogramming: Charade is Gold

Long-time Pulseprogramming fans might do a bit of a double-take upon hearing its new collection, Charade Is Gold, the first time around, as no time whatsoever would appear to have elapsed between its 2003 Tulsa For One Second long-player and its latest, so close in spirit and sound are the two. But in this case that's a good thing, as anything that comes close to replicating the earlier work in overall quality is welcome indeed. If there is anything different between the two, it's an embrace of analog over digital production methods on the new release, a move that translates into a rich and luscious sound that suits the material's symphonic synth-pop style.

The first song, “Perfect Problematic,” comes across like the band paying tribute to Joy Division but, that gesture having been made, Pulseprogramming returns in the next song, “Snowmaps On Paper” to the sound that made Tulsa For One Second so captivating. It's a swooning synth-pop serenade will seduce listeners with a soft spot for Lali Puna and The Notwist, and the songs that follow thankfully stray from the template only moderately. Though Pulseprogramming, initiated by Marc Hellner and Joel Kriske in Portland, Oregon in 1998, has at one time or another named Eric Johnson, Hans Seeger, and Joel Craig as members, it now appears to be comprised primarily of Hellner and new member Chanel Pease only (Seeger and Craig did, however, contribute design and song titles, respectively, to the project). That's clearly not a problem, however, as the two prove quite capable of producing a forty-minute jewel of an album all by themselves, with aid on the mixing end coming from Telefon Tel Aviv's Josh Eustis. The move also allows for vocal contrast to emerge with obvious differences between the group members' soothing voices emerging from one song to the next. “First They Fire” glows with an ‘80s New Wave spirit that's never unwelcome, and Pease's vocal has no trouble riding the percolating pop wave built up around her. The nine songs serve up generous helpings of analog synth-pop sparkle (“Island Answer Anywhere”) while also allowing room for an occasional epic mini-symphony too (“Midnight Boom”). That the release is available in a yellow twelve-inch vinyl format (limited to 700 copies) only makes it all the more appealing.

May 2011