By Nick StorringThough it might be a bit hyperbolic to cast Cleveland synth-wielders Emeralds' new disc Just to Feel Anything as a complete departure from their signature sound, the new elements are more than just noticeable. Roughly halfway through opening cut "Before Your Eyes," after a dreamily patient build, you're suddenly hit not only with an assertive shard of guitar, but with the stiff pulse of an 808. This contrast between floating ambient tranquility and terse, driving beats sets the tone for much of the release, which draws upon various points along the Kraftwerk lineage of electronic music: German proto-electro, early techno and into '80s post-punk, alongside the usual cosmic palette of the band.
When Exclaim! speaks to Emerald Steve Hauschildt, though, he is disarmingly nonchalant about the rather conspicuous developments on the new record. "Stylistic shifts occur because we happen to listen to a lot of music, and we take influences from many sources, many of which are non-musical," he explains. "It was a matter of the time being right to employ drum machines in a way that made sense with the music we had made up to that point."
Yet it's not as though this is the first time the group shifted gears. On their breakthrough recording from 2010, Does It Look Like I'm Here?, the group began working in shorter, more succinct and melodic forms, winning a great deal more attention from critics and fellow musicians alike. Earlier records, such as What Happened had been more lose and improvisatory, with many of the blissed-out jams clocking in around 15-minute mark.
Just to Feel Anything, according to Hauschildt, eschews improvisation almost altogether in favour of a tighter, more composed approach. "The new record contains very little improvisation compared with every other release up to this point. There are still magical parts in the music, but it's a different and more involved process now."