Austere - Pulse
Label: Hypnos Secret Sounds
2007. Hypnos debut by interesting, wonderful and obscure duo Austere who have been creeping up on the experimental ambient world these last few years, and making themselves known for atmospheric and uncompromising sound experiments that always take chances, and express a truly singular (though there are two of 'em) artistic point of view.
Pulse is an example of the sort of restrained minimalism that Hypnos has dabbled in so often, and that Hypnos listeners seem to love. Careful listening is rewarded here, but Pulse also functions as wonderful and very pleasant sonic perfume, if that's what you're looking for.
Simple and yet infinitely deep. Listen up!
Pulse is a single track, 53 minutes long.
MP3 sample clips: This is the way Pulse sounds near the beginning, near the middle, and near the end.
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"This release from 2006 offers 53 minutes of extreme minimalism. Ephemeral tonalities gather, thickening the air with the illusion of density. In actuality, the ambience is extreme and understated. Misty pulsations surround the listener, wafting delicately along the auditory canals. The intent is sedation, but not the somnambulant kind. This music is encoded with alpha waves along with subtle bi-aural panning, producing a mood of relaxed concentration intended to facilitate creative activity in the brain. The structure seems unchanging, but auxiliary textures sneak in over time, craftily altering the flow. Deeper tones rise to slowly overwhelm the nucleus drone, only to be supplanted by other rarefied tones. The illusion of immobility is quite deceptive. Comprising a single long track, this music possesses a loving dedication to undisturbed serenity. The stimulation achieved by this tuneage could well go unnoticed unless the audience engages in cognition."
--Reviewed by Matt Howarth, Sonic Curiosity, www.soniccuriosity.com
"From the Hypnos Secret Sounds CDR sublabel comes an austere work by Austere, the wondrous 53-minute tone poem aptly titled Pulse. A low drone rumbles in and fades out. It sounds a little like Tom Heasley’s ambient tuba on a previous Hypnos release, Where The Earth Meets The Sky. This is the sort of pure drone music that you either get or you don’t; if you do, you will think it is fantastic; if you don’t, you’ll be bored to tears or simply scratch your head bemusedly. On the face of it, this is one of the most static pieces of music you are likely to hear. On closer inspection, certain repeating patterns and minimal changes occur throughout. Sometimes the drone is a bit thicker, with more rumbling; sometimes it is a bit softer and smoother. Sometimes it swells and slacks; sometimes it seems to hold steady, or perhaps it is never exactly the same; one can never be sure. Some changes may be merely imagined as the listener anticipates the music evolving in a way that it never quite does. For those who love the drone, this is it; get lost in it and enjoy it. I know I will."
--Reviewed by Phil Derby, ElectroambientSpace
"There’s essentially no way to listen to the duo Austere’s new CD, Pulse, and be able to comment cogently on the entire thing. Because at a point somewhere around the 15- to 25-minute mark, your brain simply surrenders, having been lulled and massaged into complete relaxation, and just starts interpreting the sounds as a direct order to go into a deep theta state and stay there. It will, however, retain the memory of warm, droning synth pads of misleading simplicity that waft easily and steadily onward, never in a hurry to do anything but not hurry; eon-long chords convincingly demonstrating how easy it is to simply be, only ever changing slightly, and then just to become more definitively what they had been in the first place—gentle and relaxing. Pulse is ideal background music and perfect for sleep-listening. Pleasant dreams."
--Reviewed by John @ Hypnogogue
"Last in a series of three Austere works applying ambient principles to minimalist practice (and vice versa), Pulse follows 1998’s Convergence and 2004’s Eco. This enigmatic pair are psychoactive musical practitioners, deploying a processing technique referred to as “Brainwave Encoding”: barely perceptible binaural panning generates spatial sound characteristics to enhance brainwaves and foster certain “mind states”. A still vital element in Reichian minimalism’s legacy—the phase shift technique—is also featured here: recurring identical motifs initially run in parallel, imperceptible shifts slowly taking them out of sync with each other, then back in again. The result is a long format piece whose surface is one of apparent statis, gradually revealing a longitudinally evolving deeper structure. Recall Reich’s enduring maxim: “to facilitate closely detailed listening a musical process should happen extremely gradually.” So much for minimalism. As for ambient principles, Pulse’s stated function of promoting a state of relaxed concentration or disposition toward creative activity bears strong echoes of Neroli (subtitled Thinking Music, remember). And further appeals are made in accompanying commentary to established Enovian ambient principles of music as environmental tint - as psychoactive prosthetic. Austere profess to being inspired by Coil, Eno, SotL, and Robert Rich, and there is substance to their profession. Drones are wafted out into soft ambient clouds of minimal tonal vapor, initially interspersed with rests, then becoming denser and more overlapping as the phase-shifting kicks in, with the faint suggestion of a metallic echo halo constantly reconfiguring itself. With so little figure to grab onto, all being ground and field, the listener may range freely, dipping in and out with attentivity off the leash. Such spaces being all about the same tonemass swelling up and falling, infinitely recurring with minimal variativity, it’s important that the warp and weft of texture is sufficently beguiling, and Austere, while living up to their no-frills nomenclature, demonstrate themselves to be well-versed in the subtleties of these timbral dark arts."
--Alan Lockett, e/i Magazine