With two releases in the same month you would expect this to be the latter of a two-part series. Even so, ‘Am Happy’ is Pulsing’s debut on Japan-based international net label Cheapbeats. Pulsing, a trio based out of Illinois, brings live guitar and drums into their pieces to create a raw energy that feels like a mix between harder grunge and the early works of fellow chip band from France, Please Lose Battle. What we get as a result is an upbeat album full of heavy guitar, melodic exposition and accompanying arp blips; one of the first ways I could describe it was as ‘a manic pixie dream-rock concert’. If that sounds like a fun time to you, keep reading after the jump for some examples.
The song that already has its own music video (which aesthetically fits the music surprisingly well), ‘Good Ghost’, is a great example of why I could describe their sound as I have. There is enough sparkle in the repeating arps, hard chugging guitar chords and the entire song goes has only two modes: slower and dramatic, and sparkly upbeat. Everything leads up to a delightful change of time signature that strikes up enough of a change of pace between the two vibes, and it’s a nice stylistic choice to break up any potential monotony. The one thing that keeps throwing me off is its ending. It stops almost abruptly to frame the key and pacing for the following song, ‘Grapefruit Falls.’ ‘Grapefruit Falls’ is a great song by all means, adding rhythmic style and changeups for the drums as well as guitar that are enjoyable. Where I fall off is on how it feels like the same idea, but just elongated and split into two sub-3-minute songs, because someone couldn’t see how to put them together. That said, you wouldn’t see me not enjoying the heck out of both of those songs at a show.
Another fitting change of pace is the song ‘Sunstroke’, a piece that expresses a lot of tension and melancholy. This track not only provides faster and almost thrashy guitar and drum segments, but tosses in a catchy riff underneath the pulse arps and accompanying melody. This song shows Pulsing’s capability of writing a wider range of emotions than perceived through an album title with the name ‘happy’ in it, a welcomed other side to the coin. In comparison to ‘Good Ghost’ and ‘Grapefruit’ Falls, however, ‘Sunstroke’ and ‘Laser Time!’ are two tracks that feel like different songs that fit each other’s aesthetic while maintaining separate ideas. You can tell that the group has a lot more experience writing songs of this nature. It’s nice to have a change from the constantly-happy-vibe you get with most chiptune bands to have something a bit more on the negative range of emotions (without it simply devolving into screaming and incoherence.)
‘Am Happy’ is a fun debut album and I’m excited to find out what we hear next from the band. The chip-band arrangement is something we’ve seen become a successful stage act in the past, and it brings in a lot of sounds that are more familiar to audiences not in the know of why chip music is such a strong niche medium. If you’re looking for an album with as much grudge as it has sparkle, then make sure to support your local and favorite chip musicians and chiptune artists. In the case of Pulsing, you can pick up their latest album off their bandcamp.
Not to detract from this album, but I’ve decided that I’m going to be taking a decently lengthy break from writing articles. It’s been great being exposed to everyone’s excellent and unique takes on music composition and sound design. However, despite being able to write and talk at great lengths about music, I’m busy enough with my own projects that I would greatly hinder the progress of the well-oiled machine that is this blog (compared to the minor hindrance with my schedule that we’ve juggled for months.) Feel free to say hi if you see me at a show somewhere, the Chipwin Discord or anywhere else you can find me lurking. Until the next time, though, I’ll see you all… in a bit. Never stop making music.