Much like last year’s wonderful e.p. Homeless, which marked Fred Abong’s return to music following a prolonged stay in academia, Pulsing is a stripped back and often stark affair. As before, it is a collection of songs forged largely around guitar and vocals. The former is pushed through all manner of brutal and raw effects as it runs between subtle picking and more direct, shattered, rhythmic deliveries and the latter offers a voice that has a naturally lived in huskiness, a perfect contrast to the overly trained, over produced, unoriginal sound of the young, contemporary artist. This is the vocal of a person who has seen and tasted the world, that drips with an experience and wisdom that only comes with age and who understands that the interesting and intriguing beats the pristine and the perfect every time.
And using only these two components he crafts six, short, effective and emotive tunes. Footprints, the least adorned of all the tracks, opens the e.p. up, a straight down the line, acoustic busk which gradual begins to grow in intensity as its sound starts to fill out and it begins to brood on its own subject matter. The title track is a short, ragged and hypnotic meditation that seems to tumble from his memory and by contrast Meet Me is a visceral and gnashing clash of chiming chords and industrial noise, challenging but highly original, two descriptions that are in short supply these days.
Often the music, or at least the attitude towards it, is as reminiscent of the likes of Bob Mould, Buffalo Tom or The Replacements’ uncompromising ways as it is of bands on his own impressive CV – Throwing Muses and Belly – and it is that underproduction, or at least that desire not to use the production to make compromises in the music, not to smooth out its roughness and wrinkles, that underlines the honesty and integrity found here. After all, life is all about roughness and wrinkles…just look in the mirror first thing in the morning!*
*If when looking in the mirror you don’t see roughness and wrinkles, leave home, explore the world, experience love, loss and longing, let life take its toll and then come back and play the album.**
**Repeat as many times as required until the record makes sense.