Emeralds - Solar Bridge Music Album Reviews

Emeralds - Solar Bridge Music Album Reviews
Newly reissued by Ghostly, this 2008 release from the influential experimental trio represents the zenith of their early drone excursions, and hints at the more meticulous compositions that were to come.

In their seven years as a trio, Emeralds evolved from jammy, lo-fi noiseniks into advanced abstractionists and, eventually, unabashed sentimentalists—from the “bullshit boring drone band” they once jokingly called themselves into prog-rock perfectionists, stalwart believers in the transcendental power of arpeggios and counterpoint. Between 2006 and 2008, their first three years together, John Elliott, Steve Hauschildt, and Mark McGuire were furiously prolific, putting out at least 37 releases—mostly CD-Rs and cassettes of freeform, side-long improv sessions recorded at home in Cleveland. Solar Bridge, originally released in June 2008 and newly reissued by Ghostly, nine years since the group disintegrated, is one of the peaks of that early period. A transitional work—not only their first CD release but also the first album they recorded to a computer, rather than straight to tape—it represents the zenith of their longform drone excursions before they moved on to shorter, more varied, and more meticulously composed pieces with their four subsequent major statements: Emeralds, What Happened, Does It Look Like I’m Here?, and Just to Feel Anything.

Particularly in their early years, Emeralds forced people to think differently about the act of listening. Or if not to think, exactly—because the best of their music operates on an unconscious level—then to feel differently, to orient yourself in new ways with your ears. Compared to the aggro overload often espoused by their Midwestern noise kin, Emeralds preferred to slow down and space out, opting for immersion over confrontation. Especially on record, their music prized interiority. In the early work, there are few riffs, melodies, or grooves—in fact, few identifiable musical events at all. Very little could be said to happen, and when it does, it’s often so gradual as to be imperceptible. Everything is blurred; with the rare exception of when McGuire’s guitar snakes forth from the mix, it’s impossible to discern what anyone is doing. On their early cassettes, their music resembles—in the most hypnotic way possible—a faraway airplane heard from inside a walk-in cooler while a flatbed hauling beehives idles outside.

That description largely holds for Solar Bridge. Despite recording digitally, they were still improvising in real time, with no subsequent edits or overdubs, and nothing on the album’s two original tracks, nor the reissue-only, previously unheard “Photosphere,” sounds like it could have been planned. Twelve and a half minutes long, “Magic” crosses the depth and density of a Rothko painting with the minimalistic detail of an Agnes Martin. Newly remastered, the Ghostly edition sounds markedly more vivid than the original (and that’s before taking into account the fact that many people’s experience of the first edition will have been not even via the original CD or LP, but as a lossy YouTube rip). A rumbling swath of minor-key drones establishes the color field; an infinitude of squiggle and fizz supplies the filigreed line work. The shape of the piece is a crescendo in search of a climax that never comes, as thickets of buzz swell and intensify. Twice, the music reaches an imperceptible peak before easing off, making way for a subtle shift in the tone color. There’s a suggestion of rhythm buried in the churn, but with so many oscillators running out of phase, you can only lock into a given pulse for a few cycles before your attention drifts to another. A multiplicity of experiences, all taking place simultaneously, are embedded in the tension between mechanical repetition and freeform drift.

“The Quaking Mess” operates according to similar principles, stretching out a single pedal tone for the length of its 14-minute run. For the first half, it’s arrayed in glistening tones that suggest coins spinning on a zinc countertop; McGuire’s guitar seeks out pockets of silence in the swirl to sketch brief, mournful suggestions of melody. In the second half, as additional frequencies fan out across the spectrum, filling in the intervals of the scale, a ringing open fifth assumes an almost architectural heft, like a pair of Greek columns emerging from the mist, and the final plateau is a monolithic drone of Sunn O)))-like intensity. The 17-minute “Photosphere,” on the other hand, is among the quietest, gentlest cuts in the band’s catalog—little more than a soft, shimmering cloud of the most reluctant dissonance. Listen closely, and you’ll hear a three-note melody cycling slowly downward, but otherwise, it sounds almost incidental, like a particularly sleepy chorus of guitar feedback. Eventually it fades out, lending the impression it might go on forever.

The serenity of “Photosphere” makes for a provocative contrast with the two tracks from Solar Bridge’s original release. Recalling the dank, muted qualities of Allegory of Allergies, a two-hour cassette that preceded Solar Bridge by 11 months, it underscores an element of the trio’s sound that has tended to be overlooked. While they were active, Emeralds were often described in cosmic terms, in no small part for the obvious influence they took from so-called kosmische German acts of the 1970s, like Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, and Popol Vuh. But as time went on, they began to resist that reductive framing, and with good reason: They were cultivating their own style, one grown from a specifically Midwestern strain of psychedelia. While it’s possible to imagine their sprawling drones as the soundtracks to thousand-year-journeys across the Milky Way, there was always something refreshingly earthy about their music. You could just as easily flip the telescope and invert the metaphor, trading galactic webs for the mycorrhizal networks running through the soil beneath our feet—every vibrating frequency, every quivering tendril of tone, a zigzagging branch in a vast, interconnected symbiosis. Part of the beauty of revisiting Solar Bridge today is the opportunity it offers to revise what we thought we knew about the band.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Emeralds - Solar Bridge Music Album Reviews Emeralds - Solar Bridge Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on October 11, 2022 Rating: 5


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