Emerald Suspension are definitely not going to be to everyone’s taste, but what they do is definitely going to appeal to people who like their music from somewhere Out There.
Their press release for their new album describes the band, who come from Minneapolis, as an “experimental art collective” and I think that description will do as well as any other. The album, Divination, is described as a “sound collage with traditional song structures to somehow find harmony amid some weighty themes. A synthesis of disillusionment and the divine; faith and fear; the natural, unnatural and the supernatural. Too prententious? Well, at least you will find a rocking arrangement of “Mildred Pierce” by Sonic Youth and a unique cover of H.R. Pufnstuf!“
To that, I say “Bring it on”.
The cover of “Mildred Pierce” from Sonic Youth‘s “Goo” album is probably the most immediate piece here, but the other tracks are all worth hearing. There are a lot of those found sounds that were pioneered by the likes of David Byrne and Brian Eno on their “My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts” album and also by Can’s Holger Czukay and others, as well as a lot of electronic stuff which leans towards the avant garde end of things. In places the thing I am hearing most has a strong echo of experimental 60s Musique Concrète. This is intriguing, grown-up and challenging stuff.
There are also some real oddities here. “Fern And Ansel” starts out with some wonky ragtime piano and descends into a storm of electronic fog from which all manner of odd things briefly surface. Funnily enough, although the band might not appreciate the connection, I occasionally get a musical kinship with Public Service Broadcasting in the use of voices taken from the radio and elsewhere, although the music PSB make is a pretty mainstream sound. To my way of thinking, Emerald Suspension are creating a far more hallucinatory, even nightmarish sound world, a collage of disparate bits and pieces that create a whole that may not be musically coherent but which is certainly exploratory and challenging for the listener. OK, so not everyone wants that all the time, but plenty of us want a bit of that at least some of the time. Speaking personally, I really enjoyed listening to this album, the menacing and unsettling “Fear Of Flying” being, for me one of the highlights. It reminded me of some of the more experimental music that came out of the post-Flower Power 1960s, especially some of Pink Floyd’s wilder moments and, even more pertinently, a lot of early, experimental Krautrock.
The words unsettling, hallucinatory, menacing and uneasy keep on coming back to me over and over again as I listen. Little snatches of found voices, snippets of song, discordant noises, snatches of piano, beats, pulsing electronica, this album really is a sound collage that is constantly surprising and if you want some nightmare psychedelia, take a listen to “Krofftwerk (from H.R. Pufnstuf)”.