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Followers of the No Fun Productions label are in for a little surprise with Emeralds’ What Happened. Although it’s easy to make a case for its release on that particular label (drones, gritty textures, crackling revved amps, etc.), this album is a lot less noisy than its average production, and there is nothing harsh about it. In fact, What Happened’s lineage evokes a lot more early Tangerine Dream (circa Zeit) and Klaus Schulze (circa Picture Music) than Merzbow or Thurston Moore. Analog keyboards seem — the cover lists no instrumentation — to provide the core of the group’s sound, with maybe drone guitars added (or keyboard patches ran through guitar effects or old sputtering amplifiers). Tracks like “Alive in the Sea of Information” and “Up in the Air” have a distinct Schulze quality: aerial, slow-paced, melodically-inventive over a minimal chordal framework, exploratory in a spiritual sense. “Disappearing Ink” starts like one of Robert Fripp’s Frippertronics pieces: looped, ethereal, elegant, expanding to the point of gorgeousness. Those are all commendable influences for an analog synth trio, but don’t be fooled: What Happened is not all (or at all) about the past. The sound design and approach are deeply rooted in early 21st century drone/noise culture. This all makes the album trippy yet relevant, oddly nostalgic yet resolutely forward-looking: a step back (to analog technology) in order to advance. A very strong album by a surprising trio.

-François Couture,

Emeralds-WHAT HAPPENED (2009)


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