Mark McGuire Mark McGuireLiving With Yourself
Since the three members of Emeralds decided to take their shared project much more seriously, since they stopped putting out jam session they’d improvised in their rehearsal studio or concerts recorded in tiny venues in order to concentrate on producing and recording albums meticulously and conscientiously, their respective solo careers have also taken on a much greater role. To a large extent, this is because there is an entire constellation of tiny labels that would love to get their hands, cassettes, and CD-R’s on anything that these guys (who are much more famous, ironies of more combative independence, since they’ve put out work with Editions Mego and No Fun Productions), or any of their numerous parallel projects feel like giving them. But also because they’ve decided to make Emeralds more solid, they need alternative outlets for their more experimental urges, of which they have many.
Of the three ( Mark McGuire, John Elliott, and Steve Hauschildt), the most prolific over the course of 2010 has been McGuire: between re-releases (the lovely double “Tidings / Amethyst Waves”, for example), new recordings, and parallel projects, his name has appeared on almost two dozen references. This is an avalanche of releases that must always be handled with care, because there are very minor works, those experiments that as he says, “turn out to be indispensable for my growth as an artist,” right alongside works of radiant beauty. This is the group that “Living with Yourself” belongs to, a particular album, because it is the first that the Ohio musician has recorded for a “big” label, but also because to compose the songs that he includes, he rooted around in his most intimate childhood memories, both physically (here and there appear tape recordings made by he and his father when he was between the ages of five and twelve), as well as emotionally, as all of the songs recall very specific people or situations. It is, then, an album that plays with nostalgia and memory; it grows through showing his deepest intimacy and pulling all of the strings of the everyday and domestic.
He reveals these intentions very early on: the first song, “The Vast Structure of Recollection” (a not-at-all-hidden reference to Marcel Proust, by the way), starts up with the sounds of what appears to be a boisterous children’s party. A background on which a delicate line of acoustic guitar begins, gradually becoming more complicated, as more layers of guitars are added until the piece explodes in a luminous flash of distortion, which once it is put out, returns the noise of the party to the surface, much calmer, accompanied by simpler guitars. This strategy, that of piling up several layers of guitars, is very frequent in McGuire’s discography (he’s a big fan of Manuel Göttsching, let’s not forget), and in “Living with Yourself” it is repeated in almost all of the songs, at times leaving a base on which picking and crossed arpeggios evolve ( “Around the Old Neighbourhood”, the lovely “Brain Storm (For Erin)”). At other times, like in “Clouds Rolling in”, he manipulates the guitars until they take on a liquid texture (“guitars that sound like synthesisers,” as Simon Reynolds would say). In reality, the difference is that this time McGuire reaches a new height of mastery: to see this, you need only hear the complex “Two Different People”, a song in which various guitars start out playing an identical theme, then later evolve separately, twining together at some times, and separating at others, causing a delicious play of tension along the way. This way of doing things is only abandoned in the epic closing of the album, “Brothers (For Matt)” which, starting from a charming dialogue between McGuire and his father, builds a cathedral of atmospheric rock, with a kinetic drum rhythm and hundreds of guitars launched in so many directions. The end is tremendous and happy, accentuating the virtues of “Living with Yourself”, an album that one can declare (without fear of making too much of a mistake—because as we said above, keeping track of his work is a Herculean task) to be the best thing that McGuire has ever recorded.
Mark McGuire - Brain Storm (For Erin)
Mark McGuire - Clouds Rolling In