It’s not surprising that Daryl Groetsch has released six new albums so far this year. As Pulse Emitter, the Portland musician has put out dozens of releases since 2003, ranging from dark, subterranean drones to warm, gentle New Age music that wouldn’t be out of place in the soundtrack to a documentary about outer space.
But for this new batch of releases, he’s set all of that aside.
Home Again, Beige World, Solitude, Ease, Scenes From Some Planet, and Living in the Clouds represent his first music under his birth name since 2002. The six self-released albums are live on a separate Bandcamp page, away from the clutter of the rest of his catalog—and he’s been releasing them two at a time, Home Again and Beige World being the first pair to drop together.
Most of the new releases comprise four tracks that average about 10 minutes apiece (the outlier is Ease, which devotes half its runtime to one 20-minute track).
“The first two turned out being four tracks per album, and as I was working on the second two,” Groetsch says, “I somehow just had in my mind that that was like an aesthetic that I had created for it.”
The sound is sedate even by Groetsch’s standards: no drums, nothing resembling a melody, just deep synth drones that convey both a powerful longing and a profound sense of peace. And while the vivid blues and pinks of Pulse Emitter’s New Age releases jostle against the darker sleeves of more ominous records on the project’s Bandcamp page, these six albums are tied together by their cover art: abstract aerial shots of clouds and distant mountains, tinted to match the records’ mood and stamped with Groetsch’s name in the bottom-left corner.
“I didn’t want to just pile it on top of the Pulse Emitter catalog, which is already kind of too big,” says Groetsch. “I was kind of overprolific, so I needed a blank slate.”
Daryl Groetsch was born in Missouri in 1975. His mother was a folk guitarist who taught her skills to her son, but his most formative experience as a youngster curious about music was hearing the radio program Hearts of Space. Broadcast from the Bay Area since 1973, Hearts of Space focuses on ambient, New Age, and electronic music under the all-encompassing banner of “space music.”
“I just remember one particular time being in the garage at night when my dad was working on a car or something, and that music was on,” says Groetsch. “The garage was this cluttered place, dimly lit by electric lights, and something about hearing that music in a nocturnal setting just transported me.”
Groetsch played in jazz and rock bands throughout high school, but when he enrolled in Missouri State University’s composition program, he discovered both the synthesizer and the mind-bending possibilities that musicians like Aphex Twin, The Orb, and The Future Sound of London were opening up for electronic music in the ‘90s (around the same time, he also started actively listening to Hearts of Space).
Groetsch’s early albums under his own name date from that period, and they’re hard to find. “I wouldn’t really seek it out,” Groetsch says. While his music from that era isn’t bad, it sounds worshipful of the artists he discovered in college, as opposed to the distinctive sound and vision he established when he started Pulse Emitter in 2003, five years after moving to Portland.
As Pulse Emitter, he’s explored noise music, what he describes as “tribal ambient vaporwave,” and melodic synth music. But Hearts of Space always lingered in the back of his head.
“I’ve kind of always wanted to do this sort of pure ambient space music, which I’ve appreciated and actually kind of struggled to make,” Groetsch says. “Which sounds counterintuitive. That should be the easy kind of music to make. But with Pulse Emitter I somehow wasn’t able to just keep it simple.”
Why is Groetsch finally able to make this music? He doesn’t have a clear answer, though recording on an iPad rather than in a studio may have something to do with it.
“I’m not sitting in the studio trying to be serious,” he says. “I do it on the couch or in the car. That aspect of it contributes to being able to really relax while I’m making it, which isn’t always the case when you’re making electronic music.”
Groetsch is taking a break from recording for the summer (the better to give listeners a chance to catch up with the four cumulative hours of music he’s put out this year). But that’s hardly the end of his space-music dreams: “I plan on doing it for the rest of my life, to be honest.”
SEE IT: Daryl Groetsch performs with Golden Feelings and The OO-Ray at Turn! Turn! Turn!, 8 NE Killingsworth St., 503-284-6019, turnturnturnpdx.com. 8 pm Wednesday, July 13. 21+.