Former Emeralds Guitarist Delivers Ambient Existentialism
Every song tells a story, but Mark McGuire’s Along the Way is a concept album, with thirteen tracks of lush instrumentals to tell the whole story. Compressed guitars, drum machines, ambient percussion and the occasional voice all serve to build the character in his environment, as well as every experience. In his own words (as expressed in the expansive essays and lyrics that accompany the album), it is “the quest of the individual seeking the answers to the great mysteries of life,” but without this narrative the listener may just close his eyes and let every heave and sigh of the music paint the picture that he sees.
“Awakening.” We reach out to find a free-time cacophony of sounds, chimes of a summery morning as the day is new and thoughts are light. Around us is a range of things to take in, a “Wonderland of Living Things.” We take our first solid steps, finding our trails and ways, “In Search of the Miraculous,” with the sun panning across the sky. Our memories set in and pull us back, changing our day, making us feel and breathe. We begin to run, feeling our lungs and remembering we are present, we are in this place and time.
We stop and catch our breath, feeling we’ve gone too far– “To the Macrobes.” The trees are thick and this place is unfamiliar. Shadows stretch as the music feels weighted. We feel out of sorts. Something is happening. It’s not comfortable but it is familiar. We’ve gone “Astray.” Things unwanted have become expected, and for this we mourn. We walk away, our attention fixed. “Silent Weapons,” and each step is heavy. Holding it in we wander, with and without direction. Our plans may still succeed, but the fallout is inevitable. Some things cannot be undone.
“The Instinct” remains, however, and it tells us to work. To walk. To carry on. Falling always ends. There is always a bottom, and from there is only up. Wounds heal, a trail can be made if not found. We begin to run again. All this, empowered in “The Human Condition,” is to be fought, to be loved, to be embraced. Everything is around us, and yet we are it. We accept this or we don’t. And for what? What brings us back, keeps us whole? For the joy, the conquest, “For the Friendships.” The words come in plain-speak and the heart sings. We find it and find ourselves and “Arrival Begins the Next Departure.” It’s not a new day and yet every moment is a new day. Every day. Lightness and our efforts are not quite so tiresome.
But is it a test? A plan? A fight for survival or “The War on Consciousness?” Does a path that leads from dark to light, day to night and all steps between need to twist so? As the mind is deep and the soul deeper, is “The Lonelier Way” our lot? A wealth of over-thought and endless observation? And what of the clarity heard in “Turiya,” of pure consciousness? Even in our highest forms, does a man of clarity and peace and communion still sit alone, with his thoughts, with an ever-present introspection? The answer is simple to McGuire. The answer is the search for the answer.