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Artist: Emeralds

Album: Emeralds

Label: Hanson

Review date: Apr. 29, 2010

Cleveland’s Emeralds have been tagged with one of the more unfortunate genre formulations in recent memory, but don’t hold "Hypnogogic Pop" against them. John Elliot, Mark McGuire and Steve Hauschildt produce some of the finest albums of ethereal drones and burbling electronics out there. The trio are often at their best when they leaven the mellifluous and hallucinatory with bit of noisy, off-kilter weirdness. On this, the CD version of a vinyl-only 2009 release on the Wagon and Gneiss Things labels, they strike just such a balance; they lean less towards 1980s-era New Age sap now favored by so many of their hypnogogic brethren, gravitating instead toward the long-form, teutonic trippiness of early 1970s Cluster, Manuel Göttsching and Tangerine Dream.

The album begins with a groaning miasma of dissonant bleeps and bloops called "Overboard (Off the Deep End)." It’s a gloriously noisy track, but a bit of a fakeout. After a stormy beginning, much of the rest of the album is smooth, neo-kosmich sailing. With its effervescent guitars and synthesizers, "Geode" is an homage to their krautrock predecessors, particularly Göttsching and Schulze. It’s lovely, if a tad too reverent in tone. “Diotima,” however, is about as blissfully soporific a mix of guitar and electronics as one could imagine.

The heart of the record is the epic final track, “Passing Away,” which took up the entire second side of the LP version. It begins as a mesmerizing mix of percolation and Frippean Evening Star-esque drones, but then morphs into a driving, pulsating synth rhythm. By the end of the track, it’s dissolved into a massive wall of sound that dissipates into the soft noise of chirping insects, gently lapping water and a Buddhist cremation ceremony.

By Susanna Bolle

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