Morrow vs. Hajduch: Mark McGuire’s Living with Yourself

Scott Morrow is ALARM’s music editor. Patrick Hajduch is a very important lawyer. Each week they debate the merits of a different album.

Mark McGuire: Living with YourselfMark McGuire: Living with Yourself (Editions Mego, 10/12/10)

Mark McGuire: “Clouds Rolling In”
[audio:|titles=Mark McGuire: “Clouds Rolling In”]

Hajduch: Living with Yourself is the most recent solo-guitar release of Mark McGuire, who also plays guitar in Emeralds. Much like Emeralds, McGuire’s music spins a gradual yarn over a combination of picked arpeggios and buzzing drones, delayed and looped and layered into a hypnotic tapestry that has become impossible to ignore.

This is McGuire’s first solo release for Editions Mego (which also released Emeralds’ breakout Does It Look Like I’m Here?), meaning that it should make it into more hands than his usual cassette-only or limited-run vinyl releases. It’s also his best, tightening up the song structure and adding audio from tapes of family conversations with his father and brother (and, briefly, dog) over the past decade.

Morrow: Also, we should clarify that this is not the über-‘roided baseball slugger who desecrated the MLB home-run records.  Though that dude is multi-talented (at hitting baseballs as well as clamming up before Congress), I don’t think that he creates swirling guitar loops that cascade from melodies to fuzz and back again.  But I could be wrong.

I’m relatively new to the Emeralds experience, so I don’t have a long memory for comparing that to McGuire’s solo stuff.  Both are complex yet ambient, and naturally, the Emeralds material presents other timbres (decades-old synth sounds, predominantly) thanks to the two other members.  And both McGuire and Emeralds release oodles of songs.

Parts of Living with Yourself, however, are structured much more as accessible guitar instrumentals.  Tracks such as “Around the Old Neighbourhood” and “Clear the Cobwebs” feel much closer to The Appleseed Cast or other late-’90s Deep Elm bands.

Hajduch: Both McGuire and Emeralds have followed similar progressions recently: away from long-form hiss and fuzz and towards straightforward, much more accessible melodic composition.  (McGuire’s Tidings and Amethyst Waves tapes were both recently reissued — four tracks, each improvised and the length of a cassette side — and though it’s noisy and buzzy and difficult, the material is absolutely gorgeous.)

There’s great material on either side of the divide, but I think that the move towards simplicity suits McGuire well on this album.  The guitar melodies and the vocal samples from old home videos create a cozy, autumnal vibe.  Mark McGuire signed to an experimental label so that he could make a total “Cosby sweater” album, and it’s phenomenal.

I’d hate to take away from the surprise, but the last track features drums, and it really, truly rocks, which most Emeralds/McGuire material doesn’t really get around to doing.  His thick, multi-tracked guitar sounds more than a little like Mogwai, which I’m not usually a fan of, but here it works out great.

Morrow: Indeed, much like the last album that we covered, the final two tracks are my favorites — “Clear the Cobwebs” and “Brothers (for Matt).”

On a side note, I was glad yet unsurprised to find that Living with Yourself was mastered by James Plotkin, who also worked on the Tidings / Amethyst Waves combined reissue and who seems to be involved with every musical recording under the sun.  He just helped produce the Sailors with Wax Wings and White Moth albums by R. Loren that are out this month.  And I still need to get my hands on the Jodis album that he did with Aaron Turner (Isis) and Tim Wyskida (Khanate).  That guy needs to keep making music, period.

Anyway, fans of Emeralds should really dig McGuire’s latest, but don’t let a lack of familiarity with his main band prevent you from checking this out.  It sounds like we both strongly recommend this one.

1 thought on “Morrow vs. Hajduch: Mark McGuire’s <em>Living with Yourself</em>”

  1. mark, your music is fantastic. I would be honoured if i could use nervous twitch as the background track to my residential design website. I find it very inspirational and welcoming to freedom in design and tranquility needed to be found in the home.


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