Friday, January 21, 2011

Does It Look Like I'm Here? -
Emeralds (#2, 2010)

This past year, Does It Look Like I'm Here? was easily the single most listened-to record for my ears. I was finally able to get the sold-out-on-vinyl 2009 self-titled album when it was re-released on CD. Otherwise, I might have given up after not especially digging What Happened (2009). You can read my first impressions here - featuring most of the same video samples...

Living with Yourself
But there's just so much to hear... We've got 6 separate Emeralds-related releases, and the main album and one re-release are double-albums! So I'm not even going to try covering everything. I'll just try to pair up one Does It Look track with one from each of the side-projects, private presses, collaborations, re-releases, or whatever. It's on!!

"Now You See Me" from Does It Look Like I'm Here? (2010)

"Clouds Rolling In" from Living with Yourself (2010)

Mark McGuire successfully transplanted my favorite part of Emeralds (the guitars, of course) onto a great post-rockish solo-album. Emeralds remains mainly synthesizer driven, but I can't imagine them without McGuire's contributions.

"Now You See Me" boasts the most prominent guitar on the Emeralds record, so I figure that's a good place to start the introductions. Really lovely, and the space-relay sequencer works to focus attention on the different layers before it drops out. The solo "Clouds Rolling In" picks up the pace, with the speed of a high-pressure front leading into an expansive "Brain Storm (for Erin)."

"Double Helix" from Does It Look Like I'm Here? (2010)

"Soaring Yellow / Glowing Net" from Glowing Net E.P. (2010)

Ahhh, "Double Helix" - what a great tune! High energy, to the point, with those dramatic key changes, tasteful guitar licks, and that pulse buzzing around like some wobbly UFO. In the context of the album, it punctuates a leap off into some of the most wide-open and exploratory material. Title-wise, it kinda bridges the previous domestic names with the following clinical science-style ones.

Glowing Net EP
Mist teamed up John Elliot (of Emeralds) with Sam Goldberg of Radio People for an E.P. of neo-New Age jams. Or compositions... This actually seems the least improvisational of Elliot's three side projects on the list. Or the least in the spirit of "the tape was rolling, so why not?" Fairly minimalist compared to Emeralds, including the missing instrument - but really smooth sounds.

"Candy Shoppe" from Does It Look Like I'm Here? (2010)

"Sea Channels" from Colored Mushroom and the Medicine Rocks (2010)

The opening cut from Emeralds also gets a video made by the band (Mark McGuire, I believe). This tune is really nicely constructed. Things seem to meander a bit while different elements get introduced, then about half way through, a subtle shift coalesces into a single direction. All the parts start gradually moving together and build up momentum towards the end of the song. Pretty sweet trick.

Colored Mushroom and the Medicine Rocks
Colored Mushroom and the Medicine Rocks finds Elliot collaborating with people on more synthesizer-based workouts (with beats). It seems very much "the tape was rolling," which leads to some interesting results and a couple that interest less so.

"Summerdata" from Does It Look Like I'm Here? (2010)

Side C Track 2 from Imaginary Softwoods (2008/2010)

"Summerdata" brings back that noisy inertia we all remember so much from early last year. Is that just me? Oh... With so much material, I expected more like this - but it seems more interesting within a bigger, more diverse picture.

Imaginary Softwoods
You can read more about Imaginary Softwoods' abstract drones here, including the explanation for my own "Brains in Slo-Mo version" of C2. Double-disc, real good at any speed!

"Genetic" [part 2] from Does It Look Like I'm Here? (2010)

"Overboard (Off the Deep End)" from Emeralds (2009/2010)

Sure, "Genetic" is 12 minutes long. All the moment-to-moment changes might either obscure or enhance the possibility of limited micro-level variation. Like an optical illusion, the perspective keeps shifting from the chalice of repetitions to the two faces of a whole lot going on - and back and forth. Is the guitar playing different patterns or the same pattern differently? Can you follow the breadcrumb trail of arpeggio sequences, or are you baked inside the loaf? How long can you retain the sound before you're distracted by right now? What was just going on a minute ago?

This entire year was a process for me with Emeralds. Not really getting What Happened in January... Finding more to like in the self-titled's CD release in May... Being blown away by Does It Look Like I'm Here? in July... and continuing to explore since then. "Geode" video has been removed, so I went with mine for the opening track on the crucial Emeralds (2009).

"Does It Looks Like I'm Here?" from Does It Look Like I'm Here? (2010)

With the double-album, it just seems to keep giving and giving. The title track is the only other really long-form exploration. Otherwise, pick any tunes at random. You can compare the phasetastic pulse backed by languid guitar of "It Doesn't Arrive" to the amorphous synth burble over intermittent guitar rhythms in "Access Granted." And no-one ever talks about "Goes By"... it's really good.

Believe it or not, that isn't even close to all the Emeralds-related releases from this year. I never could find the Outer Space record, I missed all of the 7" singles, and there's no way I could keep up with the CDr and cassette releases.

Does It Look Like I'm Here?

Genre - Kraut-Drone Synth Improv
Official/Blog - Cleveland Wagon
Location - Cleveland, OH

Review - Treble Zine
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Forced Exposure, Amazon

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