Portland-based artist Daryl Groetsch has been making electronic music as Pulse Emitter since the early 2000s, covering a large scope of ground – new age music, more prog-oriented tunes, academic explorations, and more. His new album Swirlings on the great Hausu Mountain combines a lot of these, also showcasing Groetsch’s new experiments in granular synthesis. It’s a lush, melodic collection that takes the more ambient side of Pulse Emitter – see Meditative Music – and adds a rhythmic, wondrous element. When I listen to Swirlings, I hear curiosity, joy, healing. There’s something of fulfillment in the music – a replenishing.
I e-mailed Groetsch to ask about science fiction, synthesis, and spirituality.
Jordan Reyes: How did you first become interested in science fiction?
Daryl Groetsch: Probably watching Star Trek on TV growing up. First the Kirk and Spock reruns, then I remember watching Next Gen as a kid when it first aired.
JR: Do you have any favorite books, movies, series, ideas relating to science fiction?
DG: Dan Simmons’ Hyperion series is some of the finest sci-fi literature there is in my opinion. Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun as well. I like Jack Vance, Ursula K. Le Guin, and older “weird fiction”. I don’t watch a lot of television but I do love Black Mirror and The Orville.
JR: What about outer space intrigues you? Do you take influence from fictionalized stories and and reality?
DG: The emptiness, the scope, the way it makes humanity insignificant. But I’m as inspired by the Earth as much as by space, nature that is, and by imagining other worlds. And yes, I have made songs and albums inspired by specific sci-fi works.
JR: Does spirituality overlap with your musical practice?
DG: For sure. It is the most spiritually rewarding practice that I do, creating music. And I do often create music that is intended to have a meditative quality.
JR: You call a series of recorded works Meditative Music, and while meditation certainly doesn’t necessitate a spiritual aspect, it frequently does. Is meditation important to you?
DG: It is more than ever. I actually didn’t meditate in the traditional sense until the past few years. Now it’s something I do almost daily and it feels necessary to me, to find peace and return to the reality I want for myself.
JR: What was your first synthesizer? How did your understanding of synthesis grow from there to what it is now
DG: My first synth was pretty lame, a Korg X5D. It was new and affordable at the time. Was impossible for me to program, I tried so hard. Then I found an old Roland Juno 6 in a shop. That was my first real synth, a great one to learn on. I’ve had it all just about since then – samplers, FM, modular, additive, wavetable. I’ve used a lot of software lately because it is so powerful. I care less about vintage hardware than I used to.
JR: How long has Swirlings been in the works? Were there any specific things you tried out on the record that were new to you? Gear, recording techniques, frames of mind?
DG: One technique that was new to me is granular synthesis. I used that on “Fairy Tree” and “Cloud Refuge” via the Omnisphere soft synth. Also “Ripples” is made with Korg Gadget for iOS, have been using that to make music on the go. Some of the material I used for granular processing was my own going back a bit so I suppose the album was in the works for a while if you think of it that way.
JR: I am almost certainly projecting, but I feel a sort of healing or nurturing when I listen to Swirlings – does that sound at all on point? Were either of those ideas important to its creation?
DG: I’m glad you get that out of it. I think I just have that vibe going on in my music a lot lately, wasn’t specifically aiming for that with this one.
JR: What parts of sound or composition do you find yourself most interested in exploring these days?
DG: Well, Swirlings is a mix of a lot of techniques and styles that I’d been exploring leading up to it, all digital compositions. The music I’ve been working on just recently is a return to the analog noise music I used to do in the 2000’s. I’m improvising and recording to 4-track cassette. It’s such a blast. I’ve got some darker things to express lately, what with the state of the world.
JR: What is in the future for Pulse Emitter?
DG: These noise jams will likely make it to a release, still recording a lot. I have some shows coming up in Portland. I travel a lot for work lately so hopefully that will continue to inspire me.
JR: Anything else you’d like to say?
DG: Thanks for the chat!