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Emeralds, "Does It Look Like I'm Here?"

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cover image For their latest full length album, the Ohio trio have nudged the controls of their vessel and changed course for new sonic territories. The character of their music has remained unchanged, they use the same synthesizer and guitar set up, but the form in which they present it is not the familiar waves of cosmic debris that populated albums like Solar Bridge or What Happened. Here they have adopted a more melodic style which has resulted in a more accessible but equally thrilling body of music.

Editions Mego

Emeralds

Two things stand out on Does It Look Like I’m Here?: firstly, the trio has opted for many shorter tracks in place of their usual long form approach to writing music. Secondly, whereas before the synths and guitar melded together with only the occasional separation of the instruments, here they occupy their own distinct places in the mix. Together, these alterations to the Emeralds formula have resulted in a distinct shift in style and mood with surprisingly miniscule loss of the group’s musical identity in the process.

The first few minutes of the album are a surprise as, in lieu of the krauty waves of synth, Emeralds instead sound like the music that accompanies the menu of a video game like Final Fantasy VII or the old Zelda games from when I was a child. On “Candy Shoppe” there are simple melodies, clear notes and a bright, cheery mood permeating through the music. This is not the Emeralds I know but I am still drawn in as I have been many times previously. This happier side of Emeralds runs throughout Does It Look Like I’m Here? as pieces like “Double Helix” (which sounds like the ecstatic offspring of Tangerine Dream’s Ricochet and Jean Michel Jarre’s Oxygène) and “Now You See Me” explode with colour and joy.

Both John Elliot and Steve Hauschildt’s skills have developed a lot over the last couple of years; the more complex arrangements of the synth elements of the music bring a huge amount of depth to this album. The glistening keyboard shimmer of “Genetic” stands testament to their skill. It is hard not to become hypnotised by these gorgeous tones and just when it feels like it cannot get any better, Mark McGuire’s perfect guitar lines come in to complete a picture that defies the laws of geometry.

When in full swing, Does It Look Like I’m Here? is tremendous and certainly ranks among the trio’s best work (it impresses me how they keep raising the bar with each release). Even the patchier moments pale only in comparison to the rest of the disc, on an older Emeralds album they would fit in better. “Shade” is a case in point, it is fine by itself but does not have the same vigour as most of the other pieces on Does It Look Like I’m Here? Yet despite these occasional missteps, there is little here to find fault with as the group have successfully developed the remit of their music beyond drones and washes of sound.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 23 May 2010 19:22  


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