Emeralds – Just to Feel Anything

Editions Mego

When bands make a big breakout album they typically have two options for the followup: try to repeat and improve on that record’s winning formula or break away from it completely. In the case of Just to Feel Anything Emeralds have chosen the latter.

Following 2010’s wildly praised Does It Look Like I’m Here? — a record that took the trio from faceless experimenters in the American synth/drone underground to bona fide electronic heroes — the band made some bold choices for their next record. Highest on the list: drums — a lot of them. Breaking free of their previous album’s beat-free headspace Emeralds layer on the programmed kit-work good and thick with the drum-machine rhythms effectively serving as the backbone for the band’s metamorphosis from kosmische space cadets to propulsive modern-day IDMers.

Of course Just to Feel Anything is still very much an Emeralds record. Mark McGuire’s guitar theatrics still soar and tug beautifully on those heartstrings. Steve Hauschildt’s elegant synth work injects a level-headed cool. And John Elliott’s sonic mischief provides the whacked-out psych weirdness. It’s just that now their retro obsessions point more towards early ’90s electronic records and action-film scores than the work of decades-old German krautrockers effectively coming out with an album that’s slick and glossy but still atmospheric as hell.

With a million and one artists now doing the arpeggiated synth thing Emeralds have made a smart move. But is it one that tops their last album? Probably not. Still Just to Feel Anything stands as an interesting piece of work displaying one of the most graceful and intelligent band evolutions in recent memory. Following up a masterpiece is never easy.