Usually I’d imagine something coming out on the Hanson label to be a bit more obtuse and rough than what is presented on this album. Instead of leaning to the noiser end of the spectrum, the two side-long tracks here instead define themselves via classic analog synth drone that is so thick and sustained that it almost becomes tangible, yet never mundane.
The dramatic synths that open “Magic” do retain a certain prog rock quality to them, but rather than being all noodling, they instead stretch out far into the horizon. Long, sustained square wave notes matched with an occasional deep pulse. Sort of like Rick Wakeman collapsing onto his rig after a massive coke binge, the notes go on and on without pause. The layers continue washing on like waves and occasionally rescinding to allow different element of the mix to come forth. The track eventually becomes dominated by a noisier, buzzing synth tone that infringe on the territory of the noise scene, but never in a way meant to inflict pain.
The other half of the album, “The Quaking Mess,” is not a world away from the first half, instead following a similar structure and palette of the first, leading off with a bed of synths. This time, there’s more of a 1980s science fiction bent to the sound: think old episodes of Nova or Mr. Wizard and it’s a similar vibe. The analog cricket chirps and high end stabs are eventually paired with guitar work that, though noticeably effected and treated, remains subtle and restrained even through the delays and processing. Again, as the track ends, the synths become more predominant and harsh in the mix. The sound is thick and heavy, but not pummeling or violent.
As a first full-length album (after a slew of CDR and cassette releases), Emeralds have created a solid, fully realized work that due to its innate complexity stands up to multiple spins. In a scene crowded with many other electronic drone projects, this one stands out as a well-conceived album as opposed to just a random mix of sounds piled on top of one another.