Review: Pulseprogramming –Charade is Gold
Chicago’s Pulseprogramming, the brainchild of vocalist/producer Marc Hellner, are a multimedia studio-based collective that have been releasing material for over a decade. New album ‘Charade is Gold’ is a beautiful slice of subtle synth-pop which delicately mixes dreamy shoegaze with analogue loops, undulating bass, deep monotone male vocals and uplifting, airy female vocals.
It sounds like 80’s British shoegaze/synth pop to me and reminds me of bands like The Psychedelic Furs, The Cure, Tears for Fears and Depeche Mode. However, with its slick production and subtle building of layers of electronic programming and live playing, ‘Charade is Gold’ manages to sound distinctly contemporary (albeit whilst still sounding totally British!).
Tracks, like ‘Snowmaps on Paper’, are on the melancholic side and gently lull the listener with hazy, swirling synth-scapes; whereas tracks like ‘First They Fire’ (with newest member Chanel Pease on vocal duties) are uplifting, undiluted pop songs.
A particular highlight of the album for me is ‘So Right Words Strike Me’ which has a weird and experimental opening but then kicks in with a powerful synth bass line and a droning guitar loop. Subtly the song builds to a climax of layered beats and percussion, and then hits back in with that anthemic bassline. Stunning.
Another highlight is ‘You Mean Magic’ with its intense layering of rhythms and synth loops, and soft female spoken vocals overlaid by harmonising male vocals.
Overall, I have to say I liked ‘Charade is Gold’ and it made me wonder why I’d never heard of Pulseprogramming before now (maybe I’m just sheltered…meh). If you find it hard to connect to synth music emotionally then it’s unlikely that this record will ever have particularly deep significance for you. However, ‘Charade is Gold’ is top-draw electronic pop and it is of a very fine quality compared to many other contemporary acts of the same genre – the crafting and execution of this record is immaculate.
Other titles seriously considered for this article were: Synth & deliver ; A synth in time saves nine ; Synth, the final frontier ; Synth and mirrors ; Synthed with a loving kiss; The synth’s the limit ; Synth, while the iron is hot.