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Emeralds - Solar Bridge

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Artist: Emeralds

Album: Solar Bridge

Label: Hanson

Review date: Aug. 6, 2008

Cleveland trio Emeralds may share many common aesthetics with their Midwestern noise brethren, but their sound has emerged as a distinct entity in a scene already stacked with analog electronics, psychedelic improv and industrial drone. Born and bred in the "Nohio" tape underground, the group's guitar and synth concoctions have maintained a certain level of hallucinatory horror that puts them at ease among the scuzz and squalor of fellow Ohioans Burning Star Core, Mike Shiflet and Tusco Terror. But since their inception in 2006, Mark McGuire, John Elliott and Steve Hauschildt have proven quite amorphous, slowly molding their sound into the interstellar drone unit exhibited here on Solar Bridge ā€“ their most definitive statement yet.

Though Solar Bridge may be Emeralds' first "official" full-length, it's certainly not their debut. The boys have already amassed over 20 cassettes and CD-Rs in their discography. And while each past release exhibited touches of the analog grittiness associated with experimental tape enthusiasts, their music isn't as emphatically "lo-fi" as many of their peers. More than anything, Solar Bridge distinguishes the group from the chaotic sadism of Aaron Dilloway's Hanson catalog through the clarity presented within, building patiently on woozy weirdness and weighty ambience.

In fact, the rich synth textures and lengthy compositions on Solar Bridge seem to have more in common with kosmische musik and Terry Riley than the depraved volatility of their noise compatriots. Signaled from the record's title, the album's two tracks convey a feeling of cosmic void, floating with a zonked awe and possessing a magnificence all their own. But it's the way the group so successfully blends the abrasive edge of their No Fun contemporaries with the epic minimalism of a Tangerine Dream suite that makes them unique, evoking an awe-struck oddity that is undeniably gorgeous, but still vaguely unsettling.

"The Quaking Mess" most accurately embodies the Final Frontier feel, playing like a psychedelic field trip beyond the sun. Shuddering synths deliver the introduction, quickly coalescing into a thick tone peppered with tinkles and processed guitar. The paralyzing fuzz of the synthesizers slowly overtake the track, their intensity growing with each delayed pulse. And then, one final heave ā€“ the strongest yet ā€“ signals exit from the orbit, once again drifting out into black expanse as the rumble fades.

Clocking in just shy of a half-hour, Solar Bridge is a bit brief for a full-length, but the impact left by the density and cohesiveness of the record's two compositions could be taken for fitting concision. Given the diverse palette of their discography to date, it's difficult to plot Emeralds' future trajectory. But if they keep in the heavenly direction of Solar Bridge, the trio will at least steer clear of becoming the "Bullshit Boring Drone Band" they warned about in 2006.

By Cole Goins

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