Cole Pulice – Scry
11.2.22 by Matty McPherson
I am still most fascinated about Cole Pulice’s approach to an oatmeal breakfast. Whereas many of us look at the template and decree “Sweeten it! Throw down chocolate or brown sugar!” Cole instead considers how a savory mending of flavors (kale and garlic cloves) can open a new pathway from a rigidity set tradition. It’s the same base but a whole new class of thinking.
Pulice’s music has a variety of tags and eccentricities that as well, expand our ways of thinking. The kinds that lightfully tease and playfully stretch the ways in which one can approach their digitally processed saxophone recordings. We’ve seen their work in two labels and one consistent collaborator (Lynn Avery, aka Iceblink) that seems to be fostering these sounds with a curious open heart: Orange Milk and Moon Glyph. For the former label, the LCM Signal Quest tape of fall 2020 is perhaps the greatest introductory text into the world of “goo core”: noise being approached like bright, malleable plato instead of crushing, carbon-black steel. For the latter label, Pulice has been tied to “ambient jazz,” a moniker that moonlights more as a non-de-plume for people who need a shorthand to easily establish more free-form, textured recordings that just happen to be based around synthesizers and brass instrumentation.
That isn’t to say that the work Pulice has been doing over the past 2.5+ years, which has slowly teeterd out at the behest of delays or other discrepancies, does not intersect with a jazz context. Their CV on the Moon Glyph label–features on Lynn Avery’s 2020 Iceblink LP, their blissed out duo tape from February, and Pulice’s previous solo album, all albums that timespend and pitch shift reliable jazz contexts into personable, warped adventures. All of these releases have been quite exceptional in their ability to “zone”. Yet Pulice’s latest, Scry, is the first release where I feel as if the Oakland/Minneapolis artist has hit a tremendous stride in capturing the blissful quirks of digitally processed saxophone and (wind) synthesizer that imagines a true open world.
Scry’s near-three year development, articulated into the C28’s 8 cuts, willfully invokes 20th century electroacoustic mavericks. Hassell, Behrman, Oliveros, Budd, Brown, & Payne are all alluded to as points of interest. Pulice’s fascination with the mending of hardware and software found in these maverick’s projects inspired themself to create their own pedal board set-up where they are able to control the signal processing in-real time. Even still, Pulice’s approach is deeply playful and jubilant, not merely attuned to just perfoming a tribute as a stock classicist would. Within this approach Pulice parallels the nativity and utilitarian awe of those electroacoustic pioneers, capturing lightning in a bottle experiments and balladry that eclipses kankyō ongaku.
One humongous factor that simultaneously separates Pulice from the classics and advances their own electroacoustic vision is their devout adherence to a “gamer logic”, as it could be dubbed. The lad carries a knowledge base and dedication to the run of 90s Square SNES and PS1 RPGs. I would not be surprised if they have spent time in video game worlds just in awe of the pixels. The quips of Square’s detailed sound design are reflected in Cole’s own, sometimes within the brief sleights that occupy 4 tracks or as a feature of a main piece. The titles of side A opener HP / MP and side B opener Moon Gate Rune are not jargons but bristlings and twinkly baroque stage setters. Their brevity carries the speed and fluidity of scrolling through a video game menu screen, loading up and customizing all the options. Another brevitous cut, Driftglass warps one out of wherever they are to a hilltop of delicate spirally, minimal textures. Spool is as gaseous and droney as the tape functions at, still inquisitive and carrying all the hallmarks of traversing an open-air bazaar in a port district. These four shorter pieces are not interludes though, moreso earnestly cunning improvisations that gesture towards the thrill of being lost in role-playing.
There are still, mesmerizing songs and goodness! These compositions are akin to a fall vacation in any futuristically fictive way or fact-laden nostalgic past. Astral Cowpoke is defined by its steady drum machine track as Pulice’s saxophone squiggles around into unwieldy sound tornadoes–all the while, small flickers of gurgling bass or chipper “secret collect!” noises reflect the most brilliant serendipitous moments of finding yourself in a strange place. City in a City rivals Patrick Shiroishi at his most revelrous. Stripping back the digital processing, Pulice lets a simple piano loop and bassline be the framework as their saxophone strikes up a watercolor still life of domestic bliss: quiet kitchen cooking, frivolous boyish activities, and a sapphire blue sky are all images one could deduce from the Fuubutsushi-adjacent recording. Glitterdark subtracts the saxophone (or purposely warps one looping sound out of it) in lieu of pushing forth a synthesizer at its most revenant. It can recall grandiose cathedrals as much as time scanning Forerunner databases.
That brings us to the closing title track. At once its Pulice’s most meat n’ potatoes composition, the one that could distinctly have fit on a previous of their Moon Glyph endeavors. It moves hypnotically, teasing out small tantalizing quips within the sound design while allowing the quiet, personal warmth of their saxophone to foreground the track in a bliss state. About halfway, a lulling, softly wonky loop creates a percussive beat that every element seems to respond and move to, if not outright…yearn for. It’s rare that an amalgamation of sound, stripped back and analyzed part by part, reveals each sound fitting like puzzle pieces. They do not just quite ache to be pieced together, but to amount to a paean for seeing a future. And Scry really do be crystalline gazing into a future.
Pro-dubbed cassette, imprint, sticker, full color artwork available from the Moon Glyph Bandcamp