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Emeralds Announce Latest Synth Odyssey, ‘Just to Feel Anything,’ on Editions Mego

Cleveland's 'Bullshit Boring Drone Band' adds a TR-808, discovers the groove

Cleveland’s crystal voyagers Emeralds will release their first new album since 2010’s Does It Look Like I’m Here? in November, they announced today. Titled Just to Feel Anything, it appears, like its predecessor, on Peter Rehberg’s Editions Mego label, breaking an unprecedented dry spell in the group’s normally prodigious output as well as moving the band in a surprisingly refined direction.

Between 2006 and 2010, the trio of John Elliott, Steve Hauschildt, and Mark McGuire developed a wild, mercurial fusion of electronic noise and Krautrock-inspired synthesizer odysseys across a steady stream of recordings on labels like Hanson, Gneiss Things, and No Fun Productions. Many of their dozens of cassette, CDR, and vinyl releases were sourced from overdriven live performances and stoned basement jams befitting the band’s Midwestern noise pedigree. (They poked fun at both their prodigious output and their meditative inclinations with a 2006 title, Bullshit Boring Drone Band.) Since 2009’s What Happened and Emeralds, however, the group has gradually moved away from the freeform sprawl that marked their early work in favor of more rigorously composed and arranged electronic explorations.

“After Does It Look Like I’m Here we wanted to take time to reroute our trajectory and do something completely different while retaining the Emeralds aesthetic,” said Elliott in an email. “Just to Feel Anything is a proper studio album. A lot of instruments we haven’t ever used on Emeralds albums are used as well. Some of the songs are very composed, and some rely on improvisation, as in the past. We have just organized and refined our sounds better this time around.”

Among the changes is the addition of a Roland TR-808 drum machine, which makes its first appearance in the band’s catalog. On “Adenochrome,” its 4/4 pitter-patter rhythm serves as both an organizing principle and a springboard for McGuire’s soaring flights of six-string fancy; newly locked into the groove, the band’s spiraling arpeggios take on a taut, coiled energy akin to that of techno experimentalists like Gavin Russom or Petar Dundov.

In addition to the drum machine, said Elliott, “there is also Rhodes piano, organs, acoustic guitar, and other stuff we have never used. Introducing instruments like these to the band is a logical progression. No point in standing still all the time.”

During Emeralds’ two-year hiatus, the band’s members have busied themselves with solo and side projects. Mark McGuire has released a handful of LPs for guitar and electronics and has toured extensively. Steve Hauschildt showcased his sparkling synthesizer trance-states on a solo album, Tragedy & Geometry, on Kranky last year. And the indefatigable Elliott has kept churning out albums from his various aliases and groups (Imaginary Softwoods, Outer Space, Mist); his label Spectrum Spools has released nearly two dozen records since it was launched in March, 2011, mapping the furthest fringes of the electronic-music universe, from Container’s broken-down drum-machine fugues to Temporal Marauder’s unhinged radiophonic escapades.

Those side projects have meant that Emeralds haven’t hit the road as often as they used to, and the new album doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be couch-surfing and cadging dirt weed in a town near you any time soon. “Over the years we still haven’t quite found a good way to present the music and remain sane in a way that we can find 100% satisfying,” explained Elliott. “We are always searching. There may or may not be a tour, but as of now we really aren’t all that interested in touring. We do want to do a full United States tour, however. It’s been a long time.”