Saturday, November 20, 2010

Emeralds: Does It Look Like I'm Here? (2010)


(Editions Mego)

!! CAUTION !!

Here's a trio from Cleveland kindly providing us with ambient, theatrical synth-sludge that takes lengthy, loose form for an hour. The noise is too intrusive and gurgling to be agreeable, too harsh to be pretty, too shapeless to be enjoyable, not shapeless enough to be interesting. My girlfriend said "I feel like I'm listening to shitty music in space." I don't know that it's altogether shitty. The guys in Emeralds sound like they're having fun. We're the ones who suffer.

As when we spoke of Flying Lotus in this space, in many ways this is a mark of my perhaps embarrassing foot-dragging in regard to electronica. I thought I loved avant garde but these stabs of malfunctioning-computer effects, the watery distortions of jazz and dance that come screaming through -- this isn't the sort of weird I relate to. So chalk this to me being unqualified to review this if you like.

In this case, however, I feel as though I know at least a little bit about ambient, as well as the analogue psychedelia and shoegaze to which Does It Look Like I'm Here seems to aspire, and this doesn't connect. I always thought the first goal of ambient was not to present itself, not to stand out. Trippiness comes across, but the music is too repetitive and long-winded to make the right impression. I could use more material like "It Doesn't Arrive," three and a half minutes of feathery easy listening that gradually builds and sustains a mood much more satisfyingly than the droning, endless, maddening title track. The warmer textures and variance on "Access Granted" help make it a keeper, but the remainder is all the more cast off by its charm.

Emeralds' music may be conceived in the spirit of Music for Airports but it unequivocally demands attention at all times; it's busy, uninviting, and abrasive. The group's sheer quantity of releases seems to suggest this is all quite easy for them. I'm sure there is something to be said for all of it, but I'd require training to hear the difference. It certainly feels like niche product to me.

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