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Emeralds - Does it Look Like I’m Here?

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Artist: Emeralds

Album: Does it Look Like I’m Here?

Label: Editions Mego

Review date: May. 25, 2010

Heralded on these digital pages and elsewhere, Emeralds have made great strides in a relatively short period of four years. As is the standard in the noise community, the Emeralds catalog is rife with self-released cassettes and CD-Rs issued by labels “big” and small. Each time a full-length drops, it seems as though Emeralds have fine-tuned their sound and shifted their trajectory in some unexpected way. Their earliest efforts, usually simple and uncluttered, featured thick drones and a minimalist approach, with the band tending to record without overdubs and use single oscillator synthesizers. Later, they drifted towards the classic work of 1960s and ’70s synthesizer giants, and their flirtation with the sounds of groups like Popol Vuh, Cluster and Klaus Schulze came to a head on 2009’s What Happened, which featured the band’s clearest and most cosmic music yet. Now, with another titular interrogative, Emeralds have pulled themselves earthbound, anchoring the disc’s 12 tracks in melodicism and pop sensibility largely unheard in their oeuvre before now.

Emeralds’ sound didn’t always fit in with their compatriots in the noise scene all that well, but Does it Look Like I’m Here? largely severs any vestiges that might have kept them ensconced in that stylistic corral. While the synths still sputter, sparkle and swirl, Mark McGuire’s guitar is the crafter of the tracks’ tuneful underpinnings. Below the thick drones and twinkling arpeggios, the guitar draws out its tranquil melodies, providing palpable emotion that’s not been common for the band on previous releases.

A warm undercurrent flows in even the disc’s choppiest waters, and there’s nary a sharp tip or jagged edge that’s rough enough to disturb a track’s smooth transit. There are mawkish strains of New Age chill, and deep moods to explore, usually under the guidance of McQuire’s clean tone and heartstring-tugging melodies. However thickly it’s poured on, though, there’s no sense of insincerity in the music, and the trio seem utterly serious in the tapping of a tonal vein that can be hard to hear in 2010 without the baggage of the easy listening schmaltz and flimsy meditative tripe that came before.

While the execution is tight and virtually seamless, the trajectories of the tracks are predictable, and overall, Does it Look Like I’m Here? is too conventional and familiar in its arc to really pack an affective punch. A practitioner of any artform knows that time turns creative twists into tropes, and this album is a repeated victim of such evolution.

Whether or not one has a hankering for the specific flavor that Emeralds dish out on this disc, it’s still hard to deny that Does it Look Like I’m Here? is executed with aplomb, a confident turn on their highest-profile release to date. It has the potential to be a divisive release amongst the faithful, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

By Adam Strohm

Other Reviews of Emeralds

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What Happened


Just to Feel Anything

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Find out more about Editions Mego

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