Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Just to Feel Anything

Emeralds.  Just to Feel Anything.
Editions Mego, 2012.

Apparently, Emeralds’ 2010 album, Does It Look Like I’m Here? was all the rage back in 2010, and some folks are disappointed by this latest entry.  But I wasn’t paying much attention back then, so I can listen with fresh ears to this outing of electronic, experimental post-rock (or whatever), and put a different spin on it.  (News Item:  According to Pitchfork, Mark McGuire, one of the founding members, has left the band as of January, and the other guys will continue as a duo.)

The trio of Clevelanders has put out more than a dozen albums, but good luck getting your hands on most of them, at least in physical format.  Most are CD-Rs or cassettes. The last couple have been released on Editions Mego, and are available through Amazon.  Individual members have put out solo releases as well.

My first impression even before listening to the album is quite negative.  The company has printed all the track information in purple on black, making those of us with some degree of myopia and astigmatism lean toward fits of rage.  It’s not a good start when you can’t read the notes, but it gets better after that.  The music is really quite enjoyable.  All instrumental, the band combines synthesizers, drum machines, and guitars in various improvised combinations, often playing the percussion against the guitar, to good effect.  McGuire’s guitar work reminds me of Robin Guthrie’s, with a strong and muscular feel that is simultaneously laid back.  I can do without the bubbly drum machine on “Adrenochrome” and “Everything is Inverted,” which sounds imitative of some European electronic groups.  Once it recedes to the background, the music is more solid, being replaced by guitar or synthesizer.  “Through & Through” is very atmospheric, with the synthesizer sounding a bit choir-like (or are those real vocals?), a nice effect.

The band takes a turn in approach and emotional tone when it reaches “The Loser Keeps America Clean,” which sounds more cinematic.  In the title track, the drum machine seems less a distraction than an integral part of the music, and isn’t pushed aside as in the earlier tunes.  Less bubbly and more driving, it is overlain by the other instruments, and the track has a good deal of forward motion, clean and brisk in sound, in a wind-in-your-hair going down the highway sort of way.  It’s the track I like the best.  The final tune is a slower, more melancholy and meditative affair dominated by the guitar, slowly giving way to the synthesizer, and works well as a windup to the seven tracks.

Overall, this is a fine album, worth multiple listens, especially for the interplay of the instruments and the fine guitar work.  Now I’ll have to go back and listen to their earlier stuff.

Personnel:  John Elliott, Steve Hauschildt, Mark McGuire.
Tracks:  Before Your Eyes, Adrenochrome, Through & Through, Everything is Inverted, The Loser Keeps America Clean, Just to Feel Anything, Search for Me in the Wasteland.

The Grand Wazoo

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