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Monday, April 25, 2011

Album Review: Thomas Giles - Pulse

Thomas Giles - Pulse
2011 Metal Blade Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



The definition of "prolific" constitutes depth and articulation, but it also indicates vastness, extension and a broad body of work. By now, Between the Buried and Me have proven to be one of the most prolific groups on the planet. It's enough the progressive grind artisans have returned to the scene this year with their lengthy concept EP The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues for Metal Blade, already a success in its Billboard 200 debut at 54.

In the same breath, vocalist Tommy Giles Rogers jumps at the opportunity to make the most of his new label relations by sending out the second album under his altername Thomas Giles, Pulse. If Between the Buried and Me's covers album The Anatomy Of offered their listeners vast insight to their songwriting process, consider Pulse a flexible widening of the sound tube giving the group and Rogers both their assembled and independent loft.

Much has been made about Rogers' (we'll stick with Giles for the remainder of the ride here) option to tone down the metal on Pulse, which is not to say the album doesn't have its share of crunch. Still, if you're going to offer your listeners something they should be buying by association of band loyalty, give 'em a show. That's what Giles delivers exquisitely on Pulse.

Whether he's saluting Brian Wilson on "Mr. Bird," both vocally and in conveyance of the hazy hell Wilson subjected himself to following Pet Sounds or he's tinkering with electro agitation in the vein of Skinny Puppy on "Catch and Release," Giles opens many doors to his own cerebral hallways on Pulse. Often those channels breaststroke in reverie (such as "Mr. Bird," "Armchair Travel,""Scared" and "Suspend the Death Watch"), while others reveal a multilayered alt pop sway ala Air and Death Cab For Cutie: "Sleep Shake," "Hamilton Anxiety Scale" and "Reverb Island" coming to mind.

Giles turns his primal yowls loose only in increments and instead projects Pulse on the waves of his charismatic high and low alto swoops--treading into falsetto only to accent, as he does in Between the Buried and Me. Accordingly, Giles only allows his compositions to heavy up in the interest of igniting instead of conflagrating. "Sleep Shake" and "Medic" are the closest you'll get to Between the Buried and Me on Pulse and the listener feels rewarded when they come, as Giles asks for their strict attention on the remainder of the album. Neither song wields the grinding operatics of BTBAM (save for the outtro on "Medic"), but they do hoist a boisterous audile canvas to help extol Giles' grandly-textured mission.

Even the brief acoustic hurl of "Scared" builds to anticipation then lets loose of its barely-controlled inhibitions as Giles takes his listeners to the teetering edge of schizophrenia. A perfectly nervous build-up to the singular pulsing, electronic skritching and mandolin-assisted paranoia on "Reject Falicon," itself yet another build-up to the explosive "Medic." The amplified second half of "Hypoxia" emerges like a phoenix out of the quixotic strings and reserved hush of Giles in the opening stanza. "Hypoxia" doesn't languish on either side; instead it lavishes in both, creating a breathtaking finish that's over before you have a chance to gasp along with Giles, who whispers the song and his album to close. To say Giles was passionate in the recording of Pulse is well-understated.

Pulse could've been a deeply private, eccentric venture, much as Mike Patton has been wont to do in his non-Faith No More/Mr. Bungle projects. Thomas Giles' solo work hides a deep psychosis (even further planted than the entire collective of Between the Buried and Me) and he dishes instead of erupts. The economic song durations alone are a story, as compared to Between the Buried and Me's long-unraveling marathons.

Pulse is a carefully-constructed theater of histrionics not far away from Beck at his most expressive. Hardly the blue piece of the latter's Sea Change, Thomas Giles does seize the opportunity to bask in varying moods (most of them in a drifting cadence) and he validates Beck, Brian Wilson and everyone else Between the Buried and Me holds dear. At the root of the band's breakaway progression is a soul, and here is the ground level sound space from which Thomas Giles manipulates Pulse. Sometimes manipulation brings a positive connotation and brings us more into harmony with the word "prolific."

Rating: ****1/2

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