Subbass Spirit Quest: no puls’ SAMSARA EP

Ben Grenrock evaluates the merits of the Los Angeles producer's newest EP.
By    October 8, 2018

Ben Grenrock tried peyote and saw the face of Tony Soprano.

For millennia, shamans in every region of the world have used rhythmic sounds to induce an altered state of consciousness in themselves and in those in their communities. It’s a process called auditory driving, whereby measurable changes in the brain occur as a result of extended exposure to repetitive sonic stimulation. Pretty much for as long as we’ve been homosapiens, we’ve been getting high on beats.

And we still do. If the above sounds at all familiar to you and you have an internet connection, chances are it’s because you’ve been to a rave or some similar sort of event in which a DJ-administered collective trance is the main draw. Which isn’t to say that EDM DJs are modern shamans, but when they spin techno for hours on end and over the course of the night tethers to reality like perception of time seem to get tangled into unfamiliar shapes, they’re essentially exploiting this same neurological process as the spirit guides of yore.

As far as the digital shamans of today are concerned though, Los Angeles producer no puls, is much closer to whatever criteria would earn one that bizarre distinction than you’re average psytrance-peddler. A member of L.A. beat scene record label Courteous Family—who in the short time they’ve been releasing music have put out some the most genuinely exciting and original beat music bar none—no puls has proven himself a master at fusing organic, often tribal-sounding tones with electronic instrumentation in a way that simply hasn’t been done before. His debut LP, The Waiting Room, defies concise or sane description. It’s what you might have gotten if a tribe of bioluminescent, forest-dwelling elves had invented MIDI controllers a thousand years ago; it could have been the soundtrack to antediluvian Atlantis’ club scene; it’s equal parts Teebs and Flying Lotus with something primal and ineffable mixed in for good measure.

no puls’s most recent offering, SAMSARA, may feature more recognizable sounds, textures, and structures than The Waiting Room, but it is just as capable of transporting listeners to alien planes of conscious. The four-song EP deploys South Asian rhythms and vocal arrangements in intoxicating ways, beckoning the listener ever further away from their corporeal self. While standout cut “Ritual Dance of the Leaves” is a fairly straight-up, dusky slapper, each of the remaining three tracks on SAMSARA are built on a hypnotic substrate of throbbing rhythm. As each beat evolves, piling on deliciously synthetic elements—obliterating waves of fuzzed-out bass, intricately doctored vocals, atonal alarm bells, etc.—their organic pulse endures, supporting the layers the producer conjures and never allowing his compositions to lose their human component.

One of the budding talents in new generation of Angelino beatsmiths, no puls is not one to sleep on. As he and his Courteous Family label mates continue to break new ground in the beat scene and to supplement its culture with events like the new monthly show at The Echo, Hypnothesis, the future of the genre looks bright as ever. He may not be a Tungus or Shipibo healer, but it’d be a mistake not to follow no puls into whatever astral realm his rhythms lead you.

We rely on your support to keep POW alive. Please take a second to donate on Patreon!