One would be mistaken to believe that the album’s title means its songs will simply be concerned with sappy affairs of the heart. As soon as the first track begins (itself bearing a deceptive title: ‘Dance’), images of movie love dissolve and congeal into visions of ECG monitors clicking in dark corridors of an empty hospital. Astrid Williamson seems to be suggesting that a pulse isn’t romantic – it is a muscle spasm one has no control over and cannot live without. Love is transformed into uncertainty, lust is replaced by prayer, and the album’s dark tone has been established; Pulse could not be further away from the accessible pop of Williamson’s debut Boy For You, or any of her previous records for that matter. She seems to have stepped into another world entirely, creating a more mature, more unusual collection of songs. Listening to Pulse, one is presented with a deeply personal sonic scouring of Astrid Williamson’s most profound concerns.

The most striking aspect of the album, and its biggest strength, is the stark shift in production. Williamson is flirting with electronica for the first time, meaning Pulse instantly marks itself out from the crowd of her previous records. Her acoustic guitar has largely been cast aside in favour of unpredictably sparse arrangements of synthesised sounds that better reflect the mood of melancholia she wants to evoke. Williamson’s distinctive vocals seem less distracted than they have been in the past, and they finally find room to breathe. The result is her most affecting album to date.

Surprisingly, the comparison that first springs to mind is the work of Trent Reznor. Lyrically, Williamson treads far softer than the anger and obscenity of Nine Inch Nails, but the production and instrumentation - dystopic drum machines and haunting piano melodies – owe much to Reznor. There is a similar bleakness present in Williamson’s ‘Underwater’ and ‘Husk’, both in subject matter and tone, and ‘Pour’ could be a b-side to Reznor’s 2010 side-project How To Destroy Angels. The album is not entirely introspective however, with title track ‘Pulse’, and the superb, life-affirming ‘Miracle’, providing some much needed relief. These two songs are the most similar to Williamson’s old style of song writing, showing that she is still capable of conjuring pitch-perfect pop if she chooses to.

Despite the album’s overall bleak atmosphere, it is significant that the last song of the album is a hopeful one. With ‘Paperbacks’, the ECG monitors turn off, the hospital lights flicker on, and one closes the door unexpectedly uplifted.

Although Pulse is not particularly easy to listen to, it is an extremely interesting album to immerse oneself in, and it is an important album for Astrid Williamson. By the sound of it, she has shed some demons. Hopefully some still remain for her next set of recordings to tackle.