For Daryl Groetsch, his use of the synthesizer goes far beyond his dozens of releases under the moniker of Pulse Emitter. This year, he began releasing “pure ambient space music” (the description courtesy of his website) under his name. He also does freelance instructional videos for Korg synthesizers, has participated in a variety of collaborations with other musicians, and released a pair of albums of dungeon synth music as Endless Fog. His synth work takes on a variety of forms and casts a wide net. His latest Pulse Emitter release, Dusk, continues exploring what’s possible with the synthesizer.
Groetsch’s works as Pulse Emitter have spanned a variety of subgenres, including melodic synth music, organic ambient, relaxation, microtonal, and noise/drone. Dusk seems to encompass most, if not all, of these; it works well as a sampler of Pulse Emitter styles. A common thread throughout the album is a keen sense of melody, as arpeggios and melodic lines cross over each other, creating a lushness that washes over the listener. While the opening track, “Cloudside Dwellings”, takes a more minimalist approach, with sustained notes taking the place of traditional melodies, it acts as an appropriate overture, allowing the listener to drink in the sci-fi landscape before taking on the more studied, structured pieces.
But there’s more of a vaporwave vibe to songs that follow, as “Temple in the Mountains” begins with ethereal synth lines before artificial strings and pan flutes weave their way into the track. It’s an utterly peaceful atmosphere. Most of Dusk follows this template, with the retro stylings of the synth patches appearing as more of a sonic eventuality than any shoehorned gimmick. Groetsch enjoys introducing songs with elegant, regal blocks of chords before the overlapping melodies play with each other throughout the bulk of the track. “Fireflies” is a perfect example, as the different lines crisscross with a sort of MC Escher-like sonic architecture. There’s a certain complexity at work, but the synth patches and the melodies are so mesmerizing and warm that it’s easy not to get bogged down in the process and be lifted and transported.
There are moments of occasional darkness, as “The Road to Thrax” seems to carry an element of doom. But the track’s low-end sustain and cavernous feel seem more to emit a sense of cinematic wonder than any dangerous foreboding. It can feel momentarily that Groetsch may be attempting to conjure up dark horror. Still, it’s really just a bit of spine-tingling tension and gives Dusk an eclectic nature that may not be apparent until the entire album is taken in. The same can be said for the album’s closer, “Mulch”, which is essentially several minutes of brown noise interrupted by subtle sonic belches that evoke the feeling of being unmoored in outer space with some cosmic being lurking in the distance. In a way, it acts as a palate cleanser and also nicely bookends the album with the lush ambience of “Cloudside Dwellings”.
According to Groetsch’s website, the Pulse Emitter catalog contains nearly a hundred physical releases since the early 2000s; more than 30 are available on the Pulse Emitter Bandcamp page. If you’re looking to begin your journey into this sonically gorgeous world, Dusk is an excellent place to start, and those seeking more of this music certainly have their work cut out for them.