The press release for Does It Look Like I’m Here, the overwhelming, interstellar, beautiful new record from Cleveland’s Emeralds, states that it is their third official release. I have no idea what the word “official” means in this context (evidently released on a format other than CD-R or cassette, which doesn’t quite go), but the trio has managed to put out a seriously impressive amount of material in the last five years, many on their own labels, Wagon and Gneiss Things. A large amount of the pieces released previously are long-form improvisations in which the group explores the spacey terrain opened up by their integration of analog synthesizers and Mark McGuire’s adept, heavens-bound guitar work. Does it Look Like I’m Here, released on the abstract/experimental Austrian label, Editions Mego, is predominantly made up of shorter, more focused pieces that, nevertheless, have the tendency to float a listener out of this world.
Emeralds stretch out layered soundscapes suggestive of work by krautrock forbearers like Popol Vuh and Manuel Gottsching and Ash Ra Tempel, as well as a minimalist mind-bender like Terry Riley. But while things get cosmic, they never get too soft, too watered down with saccharine romanticism. There is always an edge to Emeralds music, and on Does It Look Like I’m Here they take advantage of having more pieces to arrange to create a flow that verges on the dramatic, in the sense that it moves between emotional states that feed into one another as one song passes to another. There is a sense of journey to the record, ebb and flow, which grows with subsequent listens.
“Candy Shoppe” starts things off on a note of ecstatic, pastoral bliss. Swaying guitar lines and ascending melodies intertwine over pulsing keys, slowly building to a serotonin-releasing peak of droning synthesizers. Like a few of the other tracks here, it was previously released as a ridiculously limited single on Wagon, but certainly it feels as if it was meant to begin an album, to set out a sea of colors for the other tracks to rearrange, streak and swirl. The first four tracks function as a gradual lead into the longest piece here, the tower of winding synth-walls and heady guitar solos that is “Genetic.” “Goes By” then calms things down, drawing the listener into its gentle chord changes and sputtering, twinkling net of electronic sounds, before the title track gets noisy and abrasive, crashing forward in a nest of arpeggios before falling away in a wash of lost guitar notes and wavering fuzz. The rest of the record draws things to a slow close, “It Doesn’t Arrive” being especially impressive in the way it melds waves of dubbed out pulses to McGuire’s meditative guitar playing.
Emeralds already seem to have garnered a lot of attention from music nuts with diverse loves. Techno heads, experimental acolytes, noise lovers, indie children opened up by the kaleidoscopic tapestries of, say, Animal Collective: there is something about this group which cuts directly to the human heart, to collective dreams, to what lies just beyond our capability for expression in words. Does It Look Like I’m Here should only add to the small mass of people altered by the subliminal landscapes opened up by Emeralds.