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Sonic Pulsar: Playing the Universe

The CD sleeve says that among other things, multi-instrumentalist Hugo Flores takes care of drum sampling! Uh oh that's a red flag for any self-respecting prog fan!

Sonic Pulsar, from Portugal, is a 2-man collaboration of multi-instrumentalists Hugo Flores and Carlos Mateus, with occasional collaboration of Nuno Ferreira on bass guitar.

So - a two-man band, with fake drums and lots of electronica. Hmmm this is going to be a long day.

Then the CD starts spinning and whoa play that again? And again!

Is there such a genre as "Spacey-Metal?" There is now. (No, not "Space Metal".) Playing The Universe is very melodic, with lots of solid crunchy sounds, led by an unusual crossover of metal-style lead guitar, and ambient sounds. Imagine early-era Yanni crossed with Dream Theater. (No, really, use your imagination!) Symphonic, not quite metal, fairly progressive, and the strong guitar and piano work keep it well grounded. Although several tracks feature interesting changes in rhythm and tone the music isn't overly complex, but it is very melodious, with great hooks and tonal variety.

And speaking of tonal variety, here's an important lesson for aspirant prog musicians: At Sea Of Tranquility we review many, many albums by one and two man projects. So many of them are great musicians, but after the first few tracks, the music sometimes sounds frankly monotonous. So you yet-to-be-discovered prog musicians here's today's assignment: (1) Study this music. (2) Listen to the very varied tones across the whole album, and notice that no two tracks are the same. (3) Listen to the guitar solos. Most are reasonably aggressive but see how all of them are well contained within the ambience of each piece? (4) Do you hear the many voices in the guitars. (5) Go out and emulate!

The drums are well programmed sometimes sounding remarkably good, and at other times, frankly annoying. There is no replacement for the carbon-based drum machine, (i.e. a human!) The only other drawback is in the vocals. Hugo Flores has a good voice, and his delivery and the tunes are consistent with the music. The lyrics are okay, but very ESL and Hugo sings them with a heavy accent. Luckily, this is not song-oriented music, and the vocals never dominate.

Playing The Universe is well composed, the playing is out of the top drawer, and the production quality is good. This is an album you could play again and again. Very enjoyable.

Now imagine Sonic Pulsar with a real drummer, and fronted by a DC Cooper or a Damien Wilson. That would rate a full 5 stars out of 5!

Added: September 10th 2003
Reviewer: Duncan Glenday
Related Link: Band's Website
Hits: 6685
Language: english

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