The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Brad Nor­ing­ton Tim McNa­mara

Pulse transit Ash­ley Davies In­de­pen­dent Ac­claimed Mel­bourne drum­mer Ash­ley Davies ex­plores the realm of the con­cept al­bum with his latest of­fer­ing. Pulse transit, the sixth solo re­lease from Davies, is billed as “a 32-minute non­stop in­stru­men­tal mu­sic ven­ture through time and rhythm”. As the ti­tle sug­gests, there is much em­pha­sis on a con­stant beat, or beats. The pace shifts up and down ac­cord­ing to mood and en­ergy. Davies tries to con­vey the idea of two par­al­lel tra­jec­to­ries, trav­el­ling along two lines of time. One is shift­ing, the other fixed. Some­times they seem in sync, then time sig­na­tures change. Davies shows off his mul­ti­tal­ents, writ­ing and ar­rang­ing most of the al­bum, and play­ing all gui­tars, har­mon­ica and syn­the­sis­ers as well as drums. The high points are two tracks that overtly con­vey rhyth­mic move­ment, 179 on the Hume (track two) and VFT (track six). Davies takes you speed­ing in the fast lane. On Di­ur­nal, the fi­nal track, he plays sear­ing ethe­real gui­tar. On De­coke (track two), he plays echoey blues har­mon­ica. While there is un­doubt­edly good ma­te­rial here, it does not fit a genre. That might not mat­ter, but Pulse transit is un­even. It does not hang to­gether as “non­stop in­stru­men­tal mu­sic” in the way of, say, the Necks, or Brian Eno (the lat­ter cited as a Davies in­flu­ence). The main dif­fi­culty is such clear di­vi­sions be­tween each of the eight tracks, with their dis­parate styles and in­stru­ments. Af­ter an at­mo­spheric start, the sound jumps from am­bi­ent to 12-bar blues, and some­thing else again. In the for­est (track five) is acous­tic doo­dles and pleas­ant strings rem­i­nis­cent of the Six Feet Un­der theme, while Fre­man­tle Doc­tor (track seven) is brass and a doo­dling xy­lo­phone. Eclec­tic? Def­i­nitely. But still search­ing for its con­cept and theme. “an ap­peal to the divine for help and heal­ing”, is beau­ti­fully mel­low and hope­ful, as New Jer­sey singer-song­writer Sharon von Et­ten’s vo­cal con­trasts with But­ler’s swirling, un­hur­ried pro­duc­tion. Con­troller is more fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory, as a dirty bassline and the moody vo­cal of Hor­rors front­man Faris Bad­wan com­bine for a dance-floor af­fair. Bad­wan also features on the high-en­ergy 80s synth-pop of Through Your At­mos­phere. The eu­phoric Re­joice, mean­while, bound by a leath­ery synth and vo­cal by long­time col­lab­o­ra­tor Rouge Mary, has all the hall­marks of a house stom­per but ul­ti­mately falls flat when the promised drop never ar­rives. Are You Still Cer­tain is a more con­tem­pla­tive house groove, as But­ler weaves a sig­na­ture bassline and strings with the beau­ti­ful vo­cal of Hamed Sinno of Le­banese five-piece Mashrou’ Leila. The ini­tial ur­gency of Run­ning is off­set as lay­ered vo­cals from Icelandic sis­ter trio Sisy Ey take over, while long-time col­lab­o­ra­tor Gustaph features on the bumpy, synth-led Lies and epic al­bum closer Epi­logue, where the Bel­gian adds a hu­man touch to robotic pro­duc­tion.

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