Just To Feel Anything
[Editions Mego, 2012]
Nick Torsell, November 21, 2012
Listen: “Just To Feel Anything”
For a band as prolific as Emeralds, the two-year gap between their new release on Austrian experimental-label Editions Mego, Just To Feel Anything, and 2010’s Does It Look Like I’m Here, came as a surprise. Does It Look Like I’m Here was their most successful album yet, a culmination of the rich synth and guitar drone flurry they helmed on an overwhelming amount of CD-R and cassette releases, as well as a handful of traditionally released albums. As Emeralds’ guitarist, Mark McGuire, put it in a feature on the band in xlr8r, “Basically, our lives were recorded in real time from 2006 to 2010.” Just To Feel Anything is the product of a recharge; it’s more deliberate than past releases, which were often recorded from jam sessions in Cleveland’s outer suburbs, without feeling limiting.
As Steve Hauschildt mentioned in their recent interview with Fader, “I think the frequency at which we are working on music hasn’t changed at all. We’re working on music more now than we used to. It’s just that we have a better gauge for quality now, and [recording] can only happen when we’re all together.” Since the release of their last album, McGuire moved to the west coast, while the rest of the band, Hauschildt and John Elliot, has stayed around Cleveland. That distance acted as a slow catalyst according to McGuire in xlr8r, “There was a point where I was really psyched on a bunch of stuff I was recording at home in Portland,” he says. “But [I thought to myself that] if I was hanging with those guys right now, [the results] could be really, really sick.” Emeralds’ seem more confident; there’s more room on Just To Feel Anything, as compared to their more claustrophobic earlier albums like What Happened and Solar Bridge, for them to stretch out and highlight more specific ideas.
“We would usually hit our stride between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. and we didn’t really see much sunlight,” Elliot noted in xlr8r, “which [is something] I think really wore off onto the album.” Following the dramatic “Before Your Eyes,” the slowly building introduction to Just To Feel Anything, “Adrenochrome” is the first substantial look toward a nocturnal sound. Beginning with a metallic drum kick and synth, “Adrenochrome” slowly snakes through a dance rhythm that they revisit on the title track later in the album. The four-on-the-floor beat is tempered by McGuire’s galactic guitar lines, which have more in common with his recent solo album Get Lost than any of his previous work with Emeralds.
There are a few breaks in focus along the way, “Through and Through” plods along slowly and steadily, barely holding together as the band builds toward a subtle vocal release and McGuire’s most depressive guitar playing. It works as a respite, the first semblance of anything human on an otherwise very synthetic album. “The Loser Keeps America Clean” is a counterpoint, anxious and feral, it sounds like the inside of a beast’s stomach.
The title track of Just To Feel Anything is also its centerpiece. Like “Genetic,” the sprawling lynchpin of Does It Look Like I’m Here, “Just To Feel Anything” feels massive. Built on a bouncy synth line and low vocal hum, the song gathers force as it moves, shedding and adding layers along the way. The crescendo is the most hopeful thing I’ve come across all year, a twinkling burst of arpeggios and guitar squall.
Just To Feel Anything has proven Does It Look Like I’m Here was a clean break from Emeralds’ past identity toward something more organized and arranged. While this makes for a more quiet Emeralds, it also makes their releases something to digest and live with rather than collect. As a result, Just To Feel Anything is among their best albums, not quite reaching the kaleidoscopic heights of Does It Looks Like I’m Here, but still an incredibly solid work that occasionally nears excellence.
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