‘Does It Look Like I’m Here?’ was my first Spotify-driven record purchase. I read a Pitchfork review of the album in June 2010 and, were it not for my new ability to check it out immediately via Spotify, it would undoubtedly have languished on an imaginary list of records which sounded intriguing but would likely never be heard. Instead I was hooked within a couple of minutes and bought the record soon after. It was my album of the year and still seems to be twinkling away in the background of many of my days, if only I listen hard enough.
In Summer 2010 a double album of instrumentals by an ambient kosmische electronic trio from Cleveland, Ohio, who had previously self-released most of their stuff on cassette or CDR, looked like a left-field choice for record of the year, but ultimately it struck many commentators in the same beguiling light and found its way onto several end-of-year rundowns.
For me its music box pointillism was the sound I reached for when I didn’t know quite what I wanted. Sometimes I listened intently, drawn into its dissolving structures, and sometimes I used it as a warm and bubbling background wash. It works beautifully as both, and it remains one of my most returned-to records of the last five or ten years.
I have no idea about the creative process behind Emeralds’ music, and I don’t want to know. I love the idea that this record could have been played and recorded as a one-time event, with instruments and machines set to follow patterns, phasing in and out and then to black. That it could then go on to provide such a multivalent listening experience, one which effortlessly bears endless repeats, seems to me to be magical, transcendent.
I have a few other records by Emeralds and solo efforts by Mark McGuire. They mostly share an exquisite balance between the improvised and the deliberate, drawing me into their open spaces and enticing, shifting structures, rather than forcing me away as improvisation sometimes can. Rather than seeming to say, “This is what it was like in my head when I made this recording. Keep Out!” ‘Does It Look Like I’m Here?’ feels much more like a careful and expert revelation of some shared universal music.
Tom Listened: I vaguely recall listening to this record and I vaguely recall liking it…a lot. It was a long time ago now!