We’re used to being surprised by Astrid Williamson, a fine Scottish songwriter who has consistently impressed with a rare gift for moody and melodic folk/pop. Her sinfully overlooked, self-produced 2009 album Here Come the Vikings expanded the more personal sound of her first two albums with a brisk, bracing energy and a full-band interplay. But nothing quite prepared us for Pulse (August 20), a bold creative left turn that takes Williamson’s songcraft and reinvents it in a completely new, electronically powered incandescent light. Working with producer and collaborator Leo Abrahams, best known for his work with ambient master Brian Eno, Williamson makes her adventurous and perfectly named Pulse (a title that could signify either electronic energy or the workings of the human heart) a glittering triumph of aural atmospherics and stellar songwriting.
“I didn’t have a working band at the time and I wanted this time to make something different,” says Williamson, “an album where my voice was central to the proceedings, in a lot of space – something more ambient. After initial conversations and receiving some raw piano-backed demos, Abrahams found Williamson a skilled songwriter and sensed a potential creative partner looking to head “somewhere she hadn’t been before.” Williamson tossed aside half of the demos and continuing to explore and write with new inspiration, finding the challenge and dramatic new direction she’d been looking for. Pulse immerses her songs in an intriguing mix of twinkling beats and broad swaths of synth beds, the more natural tones of guitar and piano retuned with a an ear to spooky distortion. Williamson’s voice drifts and darts with a majestic, near celestial quality. This is a simply a glorious, brilliantly conceived album in the best and most unique sense of that word, where songs alternately soothe and stimulate, comfort and challenge, melding track to track into a larger, seamless whole of singular artistic vision.
Astrid Williamson - "Pulse" (from Pulse)
Astrid Williamson - "Pour" (from Pulse)