(All Album Reviews by Britdude)
Roland Richard - Flute, Solina
Gilbert Gandil - Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Vocals
Victor Bosch - Drums & Percussion
Jacques Roman - Organ, Moog, Synthesizer, Mellotron, Bass Guitar
The progeny of Dr. Francostein returned in 1976 to create more blistering music. Having stitched together a creation that bore resemblance to much of the best that could be heard from other great musicians of the time, Pulsar went into the studio to create a sophomore release that was in its own way quite unique and certainly a strong contribution to the prog pantheon. Strands of the Future is not just essential listening for lovers of "obscure" European progressive rock, it is essential to all lovers of the symphonic progressive genre.
Having created some spine-tingling music on their debut, Pulsar set about creating a true epic piece that could match the grandiose scale of their ideas. If the resulting side-long title track just falls short in scale and depth to any of the great epic classics by Yes or Genesis that you may care to name, it nevertheless comes very close. I would venture to suggest that the album's title track is at least as essential as Caravan's "Nine Feet Underground" to the truly rounded 70's prog collection.
"Strands..." takes the listener on a voyage of varying mood and intensity, ranging from Tangerine Dream-like atmospheric keyboard textures to chillingly grandiose guitar and rhythm section-driven bombast and back to meditative acoustic beauty. At times the music is gossamer thin and at others it roars with intensity.
In it's all-too-short twenty or so minutes the listener is treated to at least nine separate sections of distinct composition that nevertheless naturally flow into and support each other. During the piece's mid section, the time signature seems almost Wetton/Bruford-inspired and at others a deceptive simplicity prevails; one that is almost pastoral in its feel.
What is notable is the lack of grandstanding. This is an ensemble piece in which the work of each musician supports that of the others, with the guitar and keyboards adding texture and color to each other in a way that is comparable to the Hackett/Banks combination. If anything, however, the best comparison is with Camel, particularly in the song's mid-section in which the guitar and keyboards display that same skip-along unison that distinguished much of the English band's work.
Throughout the album, liberal use is made of Jacques Roman's mellotron, and the album's second song, "Flight", in particular is carried along with washes of that same choral sound that was so favored by Tony Banks at the time, and its dominance begs a strong comparison with fellow countrymen, Ange. In structure, however, it is the most Camel-like track on the album, with the same aforementioned unison to the playing, some lovely flute, and a definite Bardens-like keyboard sound. At less than three minutes, the piece is concise and complete, having conveyed the feel of its subject matter with perfection.
Proceedings slow to a stately pace with Windows, which once again displays some lovely flute conveying feelings of melancholy and sadness. Gilbert Gandil's vocals here are in English for the first time, however, and seem merely adequate. I would have far preferred that he sing this song in French, since there is a certain beauty to the phraseology of the language that seems to be missing here.
The English language vocals are continued on album closer "Fool's Failure", but here are more uniquely assertive than anything else that Gandil had thus-far attempted. Nevertheless, he still sounds like a Frenchman singing English lyrics, which I find a little distracting. However, it is a good song, with dark undertones and is distinguished by some bright and inventive drumming.
Yet in comparison to the amazing side-long first track, the second (vinyl) side merely scores a B. A little more of the spine-tingling grandiosity at which this band was so adept would have been welcome, and matters are not helped by a rather scrappy conclusion that for some reason features the sound of an electric typewriter.
Strands of the Future comes recommended as essential listening for its title track, which in my opinion represents the pinnacle of Pulsar's achievement. It is a melancholic work, at times stunning in its ability to repeatedly take the listener from quietude to euphoric highs and back to calm in a few short minutes. Rarely has Franco-prog sounded quite this good.