I’ve been thinking quite a lot about Ride’s new single “Pulsar” since its surprise release last week.
a celestial object, thought to be a rapidly rotating neutron star, that emits regular pulses of radio waves and other electromagnetic radiation at rates of up to one thousand pulses per second.
Much like pulsars send out waves of radiation into the universe, musicians emit waves of sound into their surrounding atmosphere. There is little guarantee that their music will be heard, and of those that do hear it, there is no guarantee anyone will comprehend it, much like the people who first encountered pulsars didn’t quite realize what they were seeing.
These days, music can live far beyond the lifespan of its creators and reach a much larger audience thanks to things like sheet music and audio/video recording, but there is something undeniably special and lucky about being alive at the exact right time and place to experience music coming into existence, much like the luck of being in the exact right situation to witness celestial events. Even if your gaze is trained in the right direction, if your mind is not open to new experiences, you may miss out on the magic being born right before your eyes. The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Jimi Hendrix at the Monterey Pop Festival. Stravinsky’s Le sacre du printemps in Paris (and the riot that followed). Beethoven’s 9th.
Ride has straddled the line for me between popular music and art music for some time. Simplicity is deceptively difficult, and these guys are masters at crafting a pop song that feels natural and inevitable, like it has always existed (Twisterella, Cali, Vapour Trail). But, it’s the complexity and the unexpected twists and turns of tracks like Seagull, Nowhere, Drive Blind, and more recently, Weather Diaries and Integration Tape that are what really intrigue me about this band. I wasn’t aware at first that the band had attended art school, and it was only relatively recently that I learned more about the depth and breadth of their artistic and musical knowledge. But even as a kid, I could sense that there was something different in this music that attracted me, something I responded to before I could even articulate what it was. I may not have fully understood what I was witnessing in the musical landscape back in the 1990s, but I certainly haven’t taken my eyes and ears off it since.
My first listen of “Pulsar” was, sadly, on my iPhone speaker – I was too impatient to wait the six hours or so until I was home from work. I liked the track, but didn’t have any real thoughts about it other than “what a gorgeous fuzzy racket!!” It wasn’t until I heard it turned up loud on better equipment that I grew to love the track, and reading drummer Laurence Colbert’s comments on his Facebook page about the inspiration for the song really gave me an appreciation for its complexity.
Like an onion, “Pulsar” is multi-layered sonically and lyrically. I already interpret it in multiple ways, and I’m sure more ideas will reveal themselves in time as my perspective grows and changes, but what a wonderful metaphor this track is for the band. In a crowded field of stars, it’s easy to miss the glowing, vibrant energy of this group. You have to know where to look and be open to hearing something new. If you’re reading this, you’re one of the lucky ones to be living in the right time and space to witness the pulsar that is Ride, live. And while the finished product is a full band (+ Erol Alkan) effort, I think there’s something beautifully poetic about the fact that the genesis of this song came from Loz, the literal pulse and heartbeat of this group.
Transmission received, guys. And it’s a stunner.
Ride – Pulsar (YouTube)