Often when I’m looking for new music, it’s an album cover that grabs my attention. That was the case with Almunia’s new album Pulsar. It was released on Paul Murphy’s Claremont 56 label, on 27th May 2013. Released without publicity or fanfare, Almunia’s sophomore album Pulsar was a low key release to say the least. There weren’t reviews in the music press. Nothing at all to let music lovers that Pulsar had been released. Indeed, if it hadn’t been for Pulsar’s cosmic, surreal and psychedelic album cover, the album might have passed my by. Thankfully, Mark Warrington’s artwork drew my attention to Pulsar. That would’ve resulted in me missing out on the eclectic, genre-sprawling delights of Pulsar, which I’ll tell you about, once I’ve briefly, told you about Almunia.
Formed in Cecicna in Livorno, Italy, Almunia are a duo consisting of Leonardo Ceccanti and Gianluca Salvador. Leonardo is a multi-instrumentalist, who can play bass, keyboards, acoustic and electric guitar. He is also the vocalist, and with turntablist Gianluca, produced Pulsar. Since forming, Almunia have released just two albums. Their debut album was New Moon, released in 2011. Then in 2012, Almunia released a twelve inch single Pulsar. This was a tantalizing taste of their sophomore album Pulsar. Before that, Almunia released a digital E.P. Cassandra’s Dream. Then a month later, came the release of Almunia’s eight-track sophomore album Pulsar, which I’ll now tell you about.
Opening Almunia’s sophomore album Pulsar is The Awakening. With just a lone acoustic guitar taking centre-stage, there’s a real Balearic sound to the track. Reverb is added, giving the track an understated, spacey and dubby sound. Then the arrangement fills out. Later, keyboards, searing guitar and percussion combine with the guitar. Almunia lock into a mesmeric groove, that’s laid-back, smokey and ideal for chilling during the long, lazy summer days ahead.
Just like The Awakening, Wrapped In Your Hair sees an acoustic guitar open the track. It’s urgent, strident sound is joined by pounding drums and Leonardo’s vocal. Briefly, it’s drenched in echo, before becoming distant and mysterious. Accompanied by just guitars and drums, this is highly effective and compelling, as Almunia fuse elements of ambient, Balearic, folk and psychedelia.
Ode To Mom has a harder, funkier and bluesier sound. That’s thanks to the bass and harmonica. After that, washes of synths add a broody, moody and dramatic sound. Reverb is added, providing a dubby influence, before washes of synths head into the distance. They’re not unlike waves crashing on an Ibizan beach. This track would provide the perfect Ibizan soundtrack. Especially since the drama and mystery has increased, as elements of electronica, funk, ambient and psychedelia combine. Then when ethereal, celestial harmonies are added, they provide a contrast, to the drama, power and mystery of this driving, genre-sprawling track.
From the get-go Views From A Blue Train has a mysterious, enigmatic sound. It’s as of Almunia are providing the soundtrack to a 21st Century spy thriller. To do this, they rely upon guitars and washes of crystalline synths. Then the track decides to reveal its secrets. A tough, funky bass and hypnotic drums take charge. They drive the arrangement along, and are helped by a wah-wah guitar. By now, Almunia are in the tightest of grooves, fusing funk, house, Balearic Beat and electronica. Add to that rock, as Leonardo finds his inner rock star, unleashing a searing guitar solo. Combine all this, and the result is a hypnotic, dance-floor friendly fusion, where musical genres unite, becoming one.
Driven along by a lone acoustic guitar, the introduction to Follow What You Are is similar to the first two tracks. Like these tracks, is another melting pot of musical genres and influences. However, the sound is very different. No wonder. Relying upon banks of keyboards, thunderous drums, rock-tinged guitars drenched in reverb and washes of jagged synths, a complex, multilayered fusion unfolds. Everything from house, dub, rock, psychedelia, Balearic Beat and ambient music is thrown into the mix, and combined seamlessly and peerlessly by Almunia.
After an understated introduction to The Magician, Almunia are soon waving their magic wand and working their magic. Best described as dreamy, trippy and ambient, it’s a truly captivating track. Washes of meandering synths and chiming guitars create a slow, spacious backdrop. It’s drenched in backdrop and joined by almost pedestrian drums. The arrangement meanders and wanders along. This is no bad thing. It allows you to experience its ambient, Balearic delights, which for seven majestic minutes wash over you, ensuring you enter an almost dreamlike, blissful state.
Secret Marriage is the perfect way to follow The Magician. The tempo is slow, the arrangement understated as it meanders, almost aimlessly along. Just the lone acoustic guitar wanders along, on a musical voyage of discover. Eventually, an electric guitar, laden with reverb, hypnotic drums and a pulsating bass join forces keyboards. Then Almunia kick loose and lock into the tightest of rocky grooves. Quite simply, it’s a joy to behold. Exploring every subtlety and nuance, they mix rock, psychedelia, jazz, Balearic and ambient music. It’s a glorious and captivating combination of diverse musical genres, that in the hands of Almunia makes perfect sense.
Closing Pulsar is the title-track Pulsar. As Leonardo’s finger urgently and nimbly fly up and and down the fretboard, he creates a dramatic jazz-tinged sound. Reverb is used sparingly, before washes of synths glide in. This signals the arrival of thunderous drums and electric guitars, drenched in reverb. While Almunia have used this combination of instruments several times before, they’ve always changed things about. This they do again. Hard and funky thanks to the bass-line, the drums are straight from a house track. As for the guitars, they fuse rock and psychedelia. Eclectic and mesmeric, is the perfect way to describe this track, which brings the musical journey that is Pulsar to an end.
Of all the new albums I’ve heard during 2013, Almunia’s Pulsar is one of the best. There’s a number of reasons for this. The first of them is, Pulsar is an old-school album. Just eight tracks and fifty-one minutes long, it’s all killer and no filler. A shorter album where it’s quality all the way are how it used to be. Rather than fifteen tracks, plus bonus tracks, Almunia deliver eight captivating tracks. These eight tracks are played by the hugely-talented Almunia, with a little help from their friends. During the eight tracks, Almunia fuse numerous musical genres and influences. Ambient, Balearic, blues, dub, folk, house, jazz, psychedelia, prog-rock and rock all influence Almunia on Pulsar. Eclectic Pulsar certainly is. Indeed, that’s almost an understatement. Instead, Pulsar is more of a genre-sprawling, Magnus Opus.
From the opening bars of The Awakening, right through to the closing notes of Pulsar, Almunia take you on the bewitching musical journey that is Pulsar. Irresistible and unforgettable, the music on Pulsar ranges from dreamy and dramatic, to broody and bold, to subtle and understated. I’d also describe Pulsar as ambient, blissful, cosmic, dreamlike, smokey and trippy. Pulsar is all these things and more. That includes imaginative, innovative and influential. Indeed, for anyone who loves, appreciates and cherishes quality and innovative music, then they must hear Almunia’s sophomore album Pulsar. So good is Pulsar, that I’d suggest that if you’re only going to buy one album this week, make sure it’s Almunia’s Pulsar. You certainly won’t regret it, and Pulsar will soon become one of you most treasured albums. Standout Tracks: The Awakening, Wrapped In Your Hair, Views From A Blue Train and The Magician.