Mark McGuire - Beyond Belief - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Mark McGuire - Beyond Belief

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:7 Release Date:2015-11-18

Mark McGuire (no, not the baseball player) has produced an interesting and pleasant, if somewhat flawed, set of electro-ambient noodling with Beyond Belief

I was pretty put off by the first track, 'The Naacals', which is somewhere between smooth jazz cheese and new age silliness. There's slow piano, light percussion, shimmery pads, and a bit of goofy guitar, all of which combine into an unfocused pile of sounds that don't make me feel anything other than mildly embarrassed. In brief, this set was not off to a promising start.

But it's followed up by 'The Past Presents the Future', which eases off on the drama and lets itself slip into a mellow, meditative groove. It does begin to ramp up towards the end, but manages to avoid getting silly, sticking with the pleasant electronics more than the overexcited guitars. "Sons of the Serpent" has smoking guitars and lots of fuzziness, almost a shoegaze wall of sound feel, along with some fairly milquetoast vocals that don't have much impact.

"Earth: 2015", takes a dark turn with the synths, and adds in some frantic, out-of-sync beats and rapid-fire electronics. It's a real standout just because it's more adventurous, ranging out of McGuire's comfort zone but still using elements that keep it thematically consistent.

"The Undying Stars" is one of the highlights, led by a tag team of prickly, glittery, and grindy synths which develop into an miniature electro-explosion, before everything happens at once. The complexity on display here is reminiscent of Peter Scherer's first album, Very Neon Pet, and its layered sounds, or even the burbling bliss of Spacetime Continuum.

It's followed by the premium ambient swirls of "Locked in Our SkyLanguage (for Cyan)", which morphs into what feels like a visceral measurement of the passage of time, not quite clockwork, but with plinked and plucked strings right in the neighborhood. Bejeweled synths pop in for a bit, and then McGuire can't resist anymore and brings in some chaotic guitar blasts halfway through before letting things calm down again, blending in some Eastern strings and then going through another big swirly buildup before letting the whole thing gently subside for the last few minutes. At over sixteen minutes, it's the longest track on the album, and manages to feel quite epic.

"True Love (song for Rachel)" leads with accoustic guitar before adding in some sweet little electronic melodies and breathy vocals across the top. It does, however, build up into another overwrought crescendo, which seems to be McGuire's trademark, weakening the impact it had been developing.

And that's a pretty good summary of the album in general. It has moments of brilliance, but McGuire's inability to resist blowing things out of proportion hurts his creations more often than not. It seems he's not quite confident enough in his initial ideas to just let them play out, so seeks to constantly outdo his previous bits of bombast with each new song. Definitely worth a listen for fans of ambient and new age though.

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