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Mark McGuire - Tidings/Amesthyst Waves

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Artist: Mark McGuire

Album: Tidings/Amesthyst Waves

Label: Weird Forest

Review date: Jun. 24, 2010

Mark McGuire may or may not ponder things oceanic when composing his solo guitar pieces, as their titles might lead one to believe (waves, coral reefs, and — kind of — tides). Intent aside, the songs collected on Tidings/Amythest Waves, a compilation of two tapes released over the past several years, would provide a stunning soundtrack to a Planet Earth-type show about undersea life. The bright melodies and the pieces’ textures, which combine a kind of flitting delay against long, warm drones, elicit a clear mental image of the different motions one might see — TV leads me to believe — more in a scuba diving context than at, say, a noise show.

McGuire also plays guitar in Emeralds, and the overall sound here bears certain similarities and a general Krautrock/Fripp & Eno mood (perhaps more reminiscent of their 2009 record What Happened than their recent Does It Look Like I’m Here?). Emeralds is at their best when embracing their more dramatic tendencies: surprising contrasts between the two synths against the guitar, sweeping dynamic shifts and, above all, an almost absurd interest in pretty melodies. Tidings/Amythest Waves succeeds at its most direct, lovely moments. On the album’s opener, “A Matter of Tim” simplifies itself gradually, beginning with a thick wall of fuzzed guitar layers, transitioning through a section of ringing, shuddering delayed notes and arpeggios to ends, with McGuire simply strumming a really lovely chord pattern, then solo-ing over himself. A strummed guitar seems so delicate and out-of-place — yet so completely perfect — that it’s perhaps the most memorable, effective moment on the record.

The second song, “Along the Coral Reef” continues in this sprawling vein, but the latter set of tracks functions a bit differently. McGuire begins each song with a phrase, which then courses underneath throughout, as he piles on different tones and rhythms. Though structurally more sensible than the first set, and entirely pleasant, they lack the nice over-the-top moments that mark the record’s first half.

By Talya Cooper

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