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Destined: Emeralds

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During the next two weeks Dusted will feature a profile of a different new artist each day. Today's artist is Emeralds.

Destined: Emeralds

  • Download "Lawn of Mirrors" by Emeralds.

    They played their first show in June 2006, but Emeralds’ musical trajectory belies their relative nascence. Less than two years since their debut performance, the Cleveland noise trio find themselves sitting atop a discography over more than 20 releases, with over 70 shows under their collective belt. The coming months will find John Elliott, Steve Hauschildt and Mark McGuire crossing two more noteworthy thresholds: that of releasing their first CDs and vinyl after a bevy of cassettes and CD-R's, and an entry in the Ecstatic Peace! catalog, which means the potential for more widespread distribution and press.

    “We are a long way from being successful,” writes Elliott. “It takes a lot of work to make something intense and new. It’s even harder to make sure that it maintains longevity.”

    Their first collaborative efforts were in the quartet Fancelions, but when Elliott, Hauschildt and McGuire left the group to make music as a trio, they did so with a different goal in mind: a vocal endeavor. “We wanted to keep it as minimal as we could,” writes McGuire, but reliance on more diverse instrumentation quickly arose, with synthesizers, guitars and other sound makers added to the mix. Elliott characterizes Emeralds’ early efforts as “a lot like walking on a balance beam,” categorizing much of the band’s initial oeuvre as “simple displays of control.”

    Demo No. 1 (Wagon, 2006), Emeralds' first effort, illustrates the sentiment well, with an icy, well-crafted minimalism, though not all of the band's early recordings are so ordered. Annihilating Beers Lumberjack Style (Wagon, 2006), another one of the trio’s early efforts, features a crowded lo- fi mélange of sound, delayed vocals swimming amongst insistent drones and groans. The recording weaves disembodied sounds into an unnerving brew, a tactic left by the wayside on the band’s follow-up, No More Spirits Over the Lake (Wagon, 2006), which finds more stable footing and taps into the mood music that Emeralds make best.

    Bullshit Boring Drone Band (2006), the title of their American Tapes release, takes a humorous stab at what Emeralds do, but while the trio are wont to use drone as a main ingredient in their work, the end effect is something that's richer than a superficial perusal might indicate. Emeralds specialize in a manner of atmospheric conjuring that draws no lines between the beautiful and the ugly, often relying on a dose of the latter to create the former.

    "What we play is what is coming out of the three of us at that particular time, and can't really be created twice the same way," writes Elliott. McGuire agrees, explaining that the band "may briefly talk about the general feeling we might want to convey before we play, but that's it." Forgoing multi-tracking or overdubs, Emeralds focus on the music more than the process, but there's a goal in mind. "The only thing I think we generally go for is full catharsis," Elliott writes, "however the music gets us there."

    Cynics may scoff, but there's something refreshing about the ardor with which Emeralds talk of their work. The trio sounds genuinely excited about immersing themselves, without a hint of irony or self-degradation. "We're really trying to put everything we have into our music," writes McGuire. "Nothing else feels right. Everything else becomes a distraction."

    Their welcome into the ranks has been a positive one. "A lot of the people that are putting our records out are the people we're the most inspired by, so in a way, we really feel like we have to work hard to be a part of that," relates Elliott. "I would say that we have had very good resources early on and we are grateful for that." The band's discography is rife with releases on Cleveland-based labels, but has become increasingly peppered with the names of some of noisedom's most esteemed imprints. Having already issued cassettes and CD-Rs on American Tapes, Gods of Tundra, Chondritic Sound, and Fag Tapes, Emeralds are soon to join the rosters of Ecstatic Peace, No Fun and Hanson Records.

    Cleveland has never been a hotbed for noise music; while an underground has existed there for some time, it seems rarely that the city's artists rise to national recognition. With Emeralds, though, perhaps the situation is beginning to change. "Every kid hates their hometown obnoxiously," writes Elliott in his defense of Emeralds' origins. "There are people that live here that try to deny the talent that’s thriving." McGuire is equally effusive, saying "There are lots of great bands in Cleveland, and I feel so lucky to know them all." The trio’s hometown pride is present even in their name, which was inspired by the "Emerald Necklace," a string of parks that surrounds the region.

    Emeralds creation of haunting, beautiful sound is one departure from noise music's perceived M.O., but their mindset toward their work provides an even more striking argument against the misconception of noisemakers as nihilistic pessimists. The band's youthful enthusiasm is immediately tangible when they talk about their music, and there's a sense of dedication that has likely played a large part in their success thus far. A statement like "I feel like our music comes from a desire we all share to create something meaningful," might seem a platitude from the mouth of another, but when McGuire follows it up by saying that, in Emeralds, "I find myself feeling like I did when I was a little kid dreaming of spending my life playing music," one can sense a candor and earnestness not colored by a desire to say the right thing. Elliott is no less positive, framing Emeralds' achievements thus far as opportunities for growth. "It really just inspires me to explore as much music as I can," he writes. "It really makes me want to deliver the records that are good enough for that kind of exposure and treatment."

    Having ended 2007 on a weeklong tour of the northeast with fellow Clevelander Sam Goldberg, Emeralds have plenty to look forward to in 2008. There's the aforementioned Ecstatic Peace split with good friends Tusco Terror, numerous other releases already on the slate, and while there's only one upcoming show listed on the band's itinerary, it's a doozey: Emeralds' debut at No Fun Fest, in May at New York’s Knitting Factory. And they should fit right in: Elliott hints that upcoming Emeralds performances will dispel the band’s rep as minimalists. "I think in recent months we have broken that mold,” he writes. “We have a large good sound system we are using, and to be honest were quite the opposite of quiet. It’s loud as hell."

    Ambience will still likely be a large part of Emeralds' music, but it sounds as though the band that Elliott called "more careful than subtle," and whose earliest efforts were marked by "simple displays of control" could be taking their music to the proverbial next level. "What we play now is something we could have never seen when we first started," writes McGuire. "We don’t know what things will be like in a year, or five years…just excited to see where things will lead."

    By Adam Strohm

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