Emeralds' bevy of cd-r and cassette releases, which has grown at a volcanic rate since the band's inception in 2005, seemed to be pointing towards something greater as of late, less a shift in the band's aesthetic than a nudge towards more realized musical statements, the transformation of an appeasing stylistic approach into music more affecting. Solar Bridge, the Cleveland trio's first proper album, is a crystallization of these trends, and the group's most compelling release yet, featuring a group of young men who have pulled things together at just the right time.
That Solar Bridge is impressive should be no grand surprise to those with their ears on the tracks, as it were, over the past few years. However, the dense, layered sound that Emeralds have typically endeavored to create is in its finest form here, spread over two tracks and twenty-six minutes. A clean, clear recording exhibits individual sounds with a clarity that enrichens the mix; singular voices are isolated within the drone as the guitar, synthesizers, and effects coagulate into a beautiful din. One is struck almost immediately by the heft of the sound, as "Magic" roars to cruising altitude, its celestial glimmer dark and rough at the edges. The Moog-ish synth tones that twist and squiggle at the track's center diminishes slightly its stoic gravity, but there's little that has the potential to bring the music back to earth. "The Quaking Mess" is even more active, the synthesizers and guitar creating a writhing mass of sound over another deep drone before a quick crescendo pulls the track into a viscous glacier of sound. Save for the obligatory fade, Solar Bridge closes at its most intense, with little room for the ominous denouement that finishes things off.
Many of Emeralds' peers are noisemakers of a tumultuous pedigree who love nothing more than to loose havoc on the ears of their audiences, but these lads do things differently, with a control of the sound that is the understated strength of Solar Bridge. No matter how far out the music gets, Mark McGuire, John Elliott and Steve Hauschildt have things well in hand, molding the music with purpose and patience. Though they've not previously released a full-length cd, it's a stretch to call Solar Bridge Emeralds' debut, given the length of their discography. Still, it's an formidable first for this as-yet relatively young trio. One can only hope this isn't some sort of high water mark, but one noteworthy step in an ascending arc.