Had Robin Guthrie decided to retire from recording after his tenure with The Cocteau Twins came to an end, no one would have begrudged him for doing so. After all, the music the group created remains hugely influential and no history of electronic pop music will be complete without an account of the group's legacy. But as is patently obvious by now, Guthrie's clearly not interested in watching from the sidelines, as his discography continues to grow at a rapid pace. Consider as evidence, for example, the fact that his latest work, Emeralds, follows Bordeaux, his recent collaboration with Harold Budd, by scant months.
Though he's carved out a credible solo career with albums under his own name (Sunflower Stories, Songs to Help My Children Sleep, Carousel, Angel Falls) and in collaboration with Budd (Before the Day Breaks / After the Night Falls, Bordeaux) and as a soundtrack composer (he's scored Gregg Araki's Kaboom and Mysterious Skin and Dany Saadia's 3:19), Guthrie, of course, will forever be associated with The Cocteau Twins in particular and shoegaze in general, and while Emeralds' vocal-less design severs the connection to the former, vestiges of the latter occasionally surface, such as when swarms of shoegaze guitars roll through “Radiola” and “Turn Together, Burn Together.” Elsewhere, “Digging for Gold” serenades the listener with a dreamy mix of electric pianos and Guthrie's signature guitars, with the instruments subtly building into a luscious climax. The album's moods range from quietly jubilant to wistful, with the stately “Torch” and “The Little Light Fades” providing two of the album's loveliest moments; Guthrie even works a smidgen of trip-hop into the project by sneaking downtempo beats in amongst the shimmer of “Warmed by the Winter Sun.”
The ten pieces exude an appealing spirit of calm and contentment that makes them all the more seductive for the listener already familiar with Guthrie's discography. In almost all cases they check in at the four-minute mark, meaning that each track gets to the point with dispatch, states its case, and then steps aside. Throughout the recording, the atmosphere is thick with reverb and echo, and the music rich in harmony and melodiousness. In truth, Emeralds doesn't depart dramatically from the dreamscaping style Guthrie's issued before, but the album's material shows that his music has reached a level of refinement whose seeming effortlessness makes it all the more appealing.