Pulseprogramming: Tulsa for One Second

The listener newly presented with the name 'Pulseprogramming' might assume its music to be clinical, cold, detached, and severe. However, the name certainly belies the overall style of music found on Tulsa for One Second which is in fact warm, inviting, and melodic, qualities that one would more readily associate with releases from the Morr Music and Carpark labels. While the tracks certainly evidence 'pulse,' they do so as a basis for pop-based song forms. The Chicago-based group is, in fact, a collective, comprised of musicians Joel Kriske and Marc Hellner, film/video artist Eric Johnson, art directors Hans Seeger and John Shachter, and poet Joel Craig. As one might expect, Seeger and Shachter designed the distinctive packaging, while Johnson created the video included on the c.d., as well as the imagery accompanying the group on tour. Kriske and Hellner, then, are primarily responsible for the music (with some help on vocals from Lindsay of L'altra). On the one hand, the group's focus upon a fuller multi-media presentation likens it to Rechenzentrum. On the other, the group's fusion of melancholy melodies with acoustic and electronic sounds calls to mind similarly like-minded groups such as Múm, Boards of Canada, and The Notwist.

“Blooms Eventually,” perhaps the strongest track, appears at the very beginning. After a brief skipping intro, a quietly insistent groove underpins a buoyant vocal melody that lyrically evokes a mood of nostalgia and loss (“precious little time to spend with you/so take my hand/hush now before you go”). Unfortunately, the vocoder treatment immediately gives the track a rather dated quality, although the effect admittedly is not so prominent that it undermines the affecting composition. Differing markedly from the opener, the vocals on the darker “Stylophone Purrs and Mannerist Blossoms” amount to a call-and-response between multi-tracked, emotive female singing in counterpoint to a male voice (somewhat reminiscent of Robbie Robertson's gravelly tones) essentially reciting spoken word poetry backed by strings and atmospheric electric pianos. Both “All Joy and Rural Honey,” with its arrangement of clicking beats and pianos, and “Within the Orderly Life,” its extended cello-like tones abetted by keyboards and percussive effects, could have appeared on Finally We Are No One , so reminiscent are they of Múm's superb recording. “Don't Swell Up Your Glass Pocket,” on the other hand, evokes Eno with its ambient backdrop of resonating piano notes and languorous synth tones. The gentle harmonies of “Bless the Drastic Space” give it a 60s-era feel, although the cut-up beats and electronic treatments place the track firmly in the present. A music-box instrumental coda ends the piece on an overly sweet and rather cloying note. In sum, most of the eleven tracks are downtempo in feel, with “Largely Long-Distance Loves” the singular propulsive exception.

Overall, the impression generated by Tulsa for One Second is one of inoffensive pleasantness. There is little radical or earth-shattering here, but rather 50 minutes of engaging, uncluttered IDM. Its vocals and melancholy melodies combine to create a warm, inviting aura, whereas the electronic instrumentation generates a comparatively cooler feel. Listening interest is retained throughout by judicious sequencing, as the songs generally split evenly into vocal- and instrumental-based pieces. Furthermore, while an overall mood of warm melodic electronica is established, the tracks also range in style throughout: vocal pieces evoke slightly different moods by shifting between 60s-style harmonies, spoken word, and vocodered treatments; similarly, the instrumental tracks vary by invoking the likes of Múm, Eno, and Plaid. Certainly, Tulsa for One Second is engagingly melodic and sufficiently varied in its compositional approach. However, one's impression of it is weakened by its overly derivative character and by the degree to which it fails to explore new, uncharted territory.

March 2003