Release Date: Nov 13, 2015
Record label: Dead Oceans Records
Genre(s): Electronic, Experimental, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Post-Rock, Experimental Ambient
Over the last 10 or so years, Mark McGuire has built a career riding Emeralds’ melodic, hopeful swells into powerful chaos, sounds that feel like rocky cliff lookouts over foggy patches of smoldering forest. Way back in 2012, Just to Feel Anything was one of my favorite releases of the year, sharpening sounds from skewed, half-baked memories of New Age utopianism and refining them through glowing, bubbling digital acuity and animatronics. Following his departure from the group in 2013, McGuire continued his series of solo releases with 2014’s Along the Way and Noctilucence, ones that chronicled an evolving personal vision, building two sonorous, spiritual opuses that shift beyond gaudy romance and pseudo-spiritual comfort to create something big.
On his second album for the Dead Oceans label, former Emeralds member and multi-instrumentalist Mark McGuire continues to reference the ambient music of the '70s, but art and indie rock need to be mentioned as well. My Bloody Valentine fans can blissfully drift to the shoegazing "Sons of the Serpent," which also utilizes the same guitar processing favored by Roxy Music's Phil Manzanera. Eno's pop records also come to mind, and those '70s dots continue to connect the sounds to Deuter on the bubbling, bright, almost new age songs like the 15-minute "The Past Presents the Future.
Mark McGuire's latest effort for Dead Oceans, Beyond Belief, is a denser, more imposing body of work than his 2013 record, Along the Way. His proclivity for noise and drone is more pronounced, but under the album's walls of reverb and delay, and tucked into its many cosmic-inspired wanderings, is the same delicate guitar work, keen ear for sonic texture and emotive songwriting. Beyond Belief alternates between two kinds of tracks: shorter, more accessible cuts that feel like the product of more traditional popular songwriting, and long, meandering excursions that see McGuire layering seemingly endless slabs of textured synthesizers, guitars and drum machines amidst well-paced cosmic journeys.
Mark McGuire’s latest album is a celestial collision between two counter-orbiting impulses: the restless ambition and accumulation of progressive rock, and the search for serenity that threads through ambient and new age music. Those familiar with McGuire’s solo output since breaking away from the electronic trio Emeralds in 2012 might already have some idea of what to expect from Beyond Belief. Its full length predecessor, Along the Way, which at the time McGuire described to the New York Times as being about “self-exploration and exploration of the world around you”, was an immaculate yet grounded wander across fourteen seamless tracks of crystalline guitar and piano undergirded by humming synthetic structures.