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Published: 2010/03/22
by Jesse Jarnow

Pleasant Obsolescence
Mark McGuire, Ben Vida, Chris Weisman

Solo Acoustic, volume II LP – Mark McGuire (VSDQ)

A key component of the Cleveland ambient trio Emeralds is the rather real guitar amid the komische/electro-crystal swirl, courtesy of Mark McGuire. Much of McGuire’s solo work continues the space-drone explorations he’s done in the prolific Emeralds (some 40 releases in the past four years), but Solo Acoustic finds him relatively naked. The music is layered, but it is still a natural sounding affair, songs like “Vitamins” building to subtle throb. There is not nearly enough music—a sliver less than half-an-hour—but where there is serves perfectly, the kind of thing that’d be just right on a warm evening, windows open, with nothing particular to do.

*****

Patchwork cassette – Ben Vida (Autumn Records)

On Patchwork, Bird Show leader Ben Vida drops two sides of almost literally pure electronic music; “no touch automatic compositions,” he describes in the J-card. Track titles are as utilitarian as the method—”#7 patch fifteen,” “#13 patch nine a”—but the music is filled with life. Reminiscent of the shattering lunar spaces of Morton Subotinick’s Silver Apples of the Moon, it’s easy to hear Patchwork in the same cosmic light, as an abstract means of transportation. Vida succeeds, finding a nearly magical circuit world that—if one is listening via Walkman—provides a Tron-like counter-zen to the modern world, of life literally inside the Grid.

*****

Fresh Sip cassette – Chris Weisman (Autumn Records)

After two low-key albums in 2009, the solo disc Tape Walk and a collaboration with Greg Davis, Northern Songs, the Vermont songwriter Chris Weisman returns with a double-dose: two mini-albums, Yen You and I Don’t Care Again,each one tape side long. The cassette format works well for the home recording Weisman, investing his Beatlefolk with an even more homespun warmth. The songs are run through with miniature psychedelic revelations (“cast aside your sense of city, step into the map,” he sings on “I Don’t Care Again”), goofy music nerd jokes (he good-naturedly drops Kenny Loggins and Donald Fagan references into “Hardcore Experimentaiton”), and—everywhere—double-tracked harmonies.

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