MARK MCGUIRE Be­yond Be­lief (Dead Oceans)

Pasatiempo - - PASA TEMPOS - — Jeff Acker

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.

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