Emeralds - Just To Feel Anything

The best electronic music is often the most melodic; that music that invokes as wide a spectrum of emotion and makes you, quite imposingly, either want to get up in gleefully break down like it were the early 90's again...or break down quite literally over what is, what was or more likely, what will never be. Some of the more recent additions to the melodic electronic outfit - the likes of Plaid, Telefon Tel Aviv, Ulrich Schnauss - they've all managed to gather their ideas and spin them together as if in a double web of synthetic intricacy and organic naturalism. Emeralds are another of these such acts that manage to find the balance between the man and the machine inside us. And while their music does often tread a step further into the wondrous landscaping shine of new age theorems and ideas, there is still that equilibrium about their music; the mechanical and the organic running together, worked on together and ultimately metamorphosing into one another. It is ultimately Emeralds' part-frantic, part-steady forward play on this that makes the sounds that ever more passionate. 'Just To Feel Anything' could be seen then as the off-spring to this matrimony of components. And while the result is indeed one of emotion as much as it composition, in relation to their discography, it feels more like a repeat than something completely of its own origin.

'Before Your Eyes' starts with a very warm but secluded approach to Emerald's play on electronics. Droves of multi-layered synths and chamber-like notes whisk through, slowly building and building on top of one another. Yet all the while - despite the synths and tones revealing themselves ever more - there's still a sense about the music that secludes us. And when the music finally unveils itself, the outcome turns into more of a melodic string of beats and tone as opposed to something potentially more lavish and lush, as the trio have undoubtedly demonstrated on previous recordings. The problem here is while it does eventually become more emotive here, there's no real sense of development thereafter. Rather it finds itself stuck in neutral; unwilling to even attempt to try and make something more of it. 'Adrenochrome' borrows a lot more from 90's electronic music, the drone and lushness of previous completely lacking in presence. Instead, Emeralds shift their attention on rhythm, and the sounds emerging out are quite interesting. Anyone passionate about IDM will identify the experimental play with layering here, the rattling percussion tuning in and out of the more rowdier and gassier helpings of bass and analog sounds.

Emeralds aren't one to forget their more ambient-scale passion and 'Through & Through' certainly shows this interest resurfacing in significant portions. Indeed, tracks like this feel a lot more complete and fulfilling given how the band are able to find a middle ground between their engrossing drone sounds and the latter chillout-esque offerings of minimal instrumentation, guitars for the first time on the album playing a crucial role in setting a visual scene for the music to play through. There's certainly a lot more genres getting their chance to shine on this release - a lot more on previous outings with Emeralds. No more is it about purely searching every nook and cranny of the trio's gorgeous foray of ambient drone and colorful electronic play. It seems more and more like a field test; a Q&A with themselves over whether they can pull off anything other than that residing in the sub-genre they're so favorably known and respected for. But while I can respect this humble innocence of discovery and investigation, I can't help but feel that the band have somewhat lost sight of what makes their work such a fascinating listen. Again, I refer back to the likes of 'Does It Look Like I'm Here?' because unlike that album, this release feels far too shallow for its own good. There's more means of discovery but in far too many pools of sub-genres. The dive is good, but it all feels way too far-flung and without reason.

'Everything Is Inverted' while despite having a groovy and compelling flow - synths darting at rampant speeds amidst a rustle of drum beats and buzzing drones - the identity of the piece feels just way too all over the place. Is this experimental? Is it melodic? Is it a more light-hearted take on drone? It's so unclear that it unfortunately comes to tarnish what compelling undertones manage to seep through. And while the music itself is praised, that sense of mistaken identity, or worse, the feeling that this track is just too widely experimental for its own good, just cannot be removed from the listener's rung of thoughts. It's thankful then we get a track like 'The Loser Keeps America Clean' to wash away what previous beliefs we have about what's already been composed, because this is a track that cements Emerald's position as a true colossus in the field of moody atmospheric drone. The track's low and brisk bellowing of sound conjures up a foray of emotions and while the tones do hint at a sense of uncomfortable uncertainty, there's definitely something inviting about the way the tones waver throughout. You get a slight off-shot of glittery synths and what sounds like leaves blowing overground and what it does is create an even greater and more curiouser visualization about the music.

But I don't want people to think that because [here, at least] Emeralds' sound works best when it's entirely darkly drone orientated, doesn't mean that more brighter and opportunistic ventures in electronics can't pull off the same level of inviting interest in their music. As is the case with the next track, the self-titled and penultimate offering to this album. It's the melancholic tone of the synths and the way the momentum is kept in this escalating position that keeps the emotional side of the music, flowing. And more to that, the inclusion of the even-seepier even-melancholia guitar riffs add an even greater emotive dimension to this track. It suggests then a far stronger, and far more focused, eye from the band on something as emphatically strong as this, and goes to show that when the target is set and all manner of experimentation is left to the side, a change in sound (as opposed to the former establishment) can really work. 'Search For Me In The Wasteland' ends on the album on a somewhat baffling yet still investigatory acoustic level, guitars playing a more harmonic and composite role as opposed to being layered within the bright and blissful offering of synthesizers and the drone that continues to seep off of it all.

I commend Emeralds for wanting to try something new - something that isn't devoted totally to the synthetic side of melody and audible range. But while 'Just To Feel Anything' does offer more organic and contemporary structures to its build, there is still that sense the three-piece can often get lost in their own field of vision. It's like they've been blinded by their own genius and are trying to find something far more simpler and accessible to escape it all. But the truth is, is that none of these such ideas really need implementing. And while they do offer some intriguing results and, at times, some well-sought ventures between the synthetics of drone and the organic side of instrumentation, it can come across a little disjointed and without real sense of focus. Nevertheless, Emeralds remain one of the strongest acts to emerge from the experimental and lavish charisma of drone and ambient electronics and while this album doesn't necessarily build on past successes, in places, it most certainly maintains the Cleveland trio's place in the fans' library.


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Discovery: Emeralds - Just To Feel Anything
Emeralds - Just To Feel Anything
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