Trouble Books & Mark McGuire - "Song for Reinier Lucassen's Sphinx" (Trouble Books & Mark McGuire)
Run through the gamut of contemporary Kosmische outfits and Mark McGuire’s name will undoubtedly stand out from the pack. His talent, dedication and influence on a genre that’s not just mimicking, but greatly expanding on the decades-old groundwork of Popul Vuh, Cluster, Conrad Schnitzler and many others, are unparalleled (though Daniel Lapotin, a.k.a. Oneohtrix Point Never, and McGuire’s Emeralds band mate John Elliot aren’t far behind).
Although he has already accomplished a lot for his age, and while many would likely take a moment to bask in the glory of his Editions Mego retrospective released in their honor, McGuire hasn’t slowed down a bit. On this album, we find him matching up with the Cleveland duo Trouble Books (Keith Freund and Linda Lejsovka), who’ve up to this point released numerous micro-edition CD-Rs and meticulously fabricated LPs on the Bark and Hiss label.
In not knowing what the Trouble Books would bring to the table, I was surprised to find singing on the majority of the tracks, often taking the form of well-timed, pensive passages, McGuire’s not-so-guitar-hero side effortlessly binding it all together. When they aren’t singing, Freund’s flickering guitar notes and Lejsovka’s unassuming synthesizer help guide the album down a gently simmering path, the breaks in the vinyl grooves between songs almost seeming redundant.
Remarkably, nothing about this album’s meshing of neo-folk and re-envisioned New Age seems forced. Even “Local Forecast,” the album’s centerpiece, which changes shape many times throughout its duration, evolves and fades out naturally. It’s an understanding of that progression that makes this debut praiseworthy. Hopefully, that understanding will carry over to this trio’s future collaborations.