Emeralds Just to Feel Anything Review

Released 2012.  

BBC Review

Another essential Emeralds acquisition that takes the trio on new tangents.

Mike Diver 2012

It takes incredible effort to keep up with the output of guitarist Mark McGuire, such is his productivity. Of equally intimidating proportions is the catalogue of the ambient-cum-electro-goes-drone trio Emeralds, of which he’s a vital constituent.

Yet the Cleveland outfit scored a breakthrough with 2010’s Does It Look Like I’m Here?. It drew impressive accolades, including an album of the year nod from Drowned in Sound and the Best New Music seal of approval from Pitchfork.

This follow-up disc therefore arrives with more eyes and ears on the band than ever. And Just to Feel Anything doesn’t disappoint, though those eager for meditative meanderings might feel detached from its propulsive, purposeful tangents.

As this album’s title alludes, it lacks not for heart. It’s there in the blissful Through & Through, a piece that makes one wonder what David Gilmour might have produced had he gone into videogame scoring in the late-1980s.

Before Your Eyes begins in fairly expected form: synths and guitars muddle in an ambient mix. But before long it escalates, the volume building and the drama peaking; and then Adrenochrome takes proceedings somewhere else entirely.

Here, Emeralds immediately lock into a krautrock-flavoured groove more brilliantly than they’ve managed before. If it doesn’t entirely represent virgin stylistic ground for the group, it’s certainly their most accomplished expression of the form. It latches itself to synapses, begging fingers to beat a rhythm.

Echoes from another age reverberate around the Emeralds sound: Cluster and Can, of course; but also John Baker, whose Radiophonic work was, at its best, both indelibly experimental yet charming and accessible, too. Emeralds expertly capture this same balance.

McGuire’s explorative guitar passages are ringers for prog’s more refined six-stringers, and the nine-minute title track wonderfully merges these warm tones with synthetic pulses reminiscent of so much electronic music of the 1970s and 80s. Indeed, at play for the first time on an Emeralds LP is a Roland TR-808 drum machine. 

Search For Me in the Wasteland closes on a comedown, but it’s the busier-of-tempo turns here that make Just to Feel Anything another essential Emeralds acquisition.

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