City Paper Best of Baltimore 2015
Best Soundtrack to the Revolution: PulseWidthMod
During the uprising, plenty of Baltimore musicians, inspired by the history happening all around them, cranked out some really great protest tracks. The one that stuck with us the most was ‘An Awakening’ by Maeghan Donavan, who records as PulseWidthMod. The song was a mysterious, menacing instrumental track in the mode of a John Carpenter score with an inexplicably thrilling sample from the new Star Wars movie’s trailer: “There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?” Yes, we felt it. All around. A few months later, Donovan released a whole album of similarly ominous electronic tracks about the uprising titled “#fearwillkeepthelocalsystemsinline” (and featuring a photo from CP Photo Editor J.M. Giordano as cover art), with samples from local and national news and such pointed song titles as ‘governments are afraid’ and ‘accountability.’ Made entirely with synthesizers and heavily improvised, the tracks figured themselves out as they go along—a lot like the uprising itself.
Interviews & Reviews
Synth explorer PulseWidthMod makes a record about the uprising
Two days before Freddie Gray’s death, Maeghan Donovan, who records sprawling synthesizer excursions as PulseWidthMod, began her album about the Baltimore Uprising—she just didn’t know it yet.At a pre-party for the dance event Vague Output on April 17, Donovan wove a sample from the trailer to the upcoming “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” movie—an ominous voice declaring, “There’s been an awakening, have you felt it?”—around a bed of pulsing percussion, moaning electronic drones, and damaged bleeps and bloops, crafting an instrumental that would later on capture the mood and tenor of Baltimore in late April.
Jammy John Carpenter synths matched with a vocal declaring, “There has been an awakening, have you felt it?” swiped from the “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” teaser. A subtle protest song made clear only by the tags on Soundcloud like “#BaltimoreUprising,” which is nice because we prefer our protest songs brutally obvious or really subtle, because this is not a time for moderate emotions. Give me some Adderall and a week and I could surely construct some kind of bugged-out think piece about Star Wars, a wildly popular corporate product which co-opted rebellion, being sampled on a small, smart song in support of genuine rebellion.
~ Brandon Soderberg, City Paper