MARK MCGUIRE Beyond Belief (Dead Oceans)
One-man band Mark McGuire’s Bandcamp page is full of homespun projects, including Our First Christmas and recordings made under his alias Cat Nap. With this disc, his second for Dead Oceans, he’s thinking big — Beyond Belief unfolds like an electro-prog opus from Yes or Tangerine Dream (with groovy cover art to match). The first track, “The Naacals,” offers gentle piano music infused with heartland warmth, sounding like a transition between segments on NPR’s All Things Considered. Things get raucous on “Sons of the Serpent,” with wailing guitars and chanted vocals reminiscent of the Meat Puppets’ cowboy-stoner rock. Urgency and rising panic inform “Earth: 2015,” the title and tone of which point toward an environmental theme. The album’s highlights are the pumping synth workout “The Undying Stars” and the following track, “Locked in Our Sky Language (For Cyan),” in which a clockwork rhythm of plucked-string notes, percussion, and distorted vocal samples evolves into a shimmering, guitar-driven crescendo. “True Love (Song for Rachel)” approaches and perhaps crosses the line into sap, with softly chanted vocals accompanying strummed acoustic guitar and twinkling keyboard notes. Fuzz-guitar and punchy bass repeat the same themes about halfway through, as though to insist that true love is also, you know, intense. The energy in the music’s ever-shifting sounds and textures fizzles a bit toward the end, but McGuire’s sense of earnestness and commitment are palpable throughout.