Mark McGuire’s solo work crossed over from limited run cassettes and indie labels onto the venerable Editions Mego imprint around the same time last year as his spacedelic kosmische project, Emeralds. Both releases are stirring, intricate instrumental albums of great merit, but whereas Emeralds’s Does It Look Like I’m Here? was a seismically dense powerhouse most at home lingering gaseously in the cosmos, Living With Yourself is a personal, intimate, even slightly sentimental record, the cover featuring a plain collage of starkly prosaic and candid Americana shots. The song titles too seem private — “Around the Old Neighborhood”, “Brain Storm (for Erin)”, and “Two Different People”, followed immediately by “Moving Apart”. One might even think of it as a kind of abstract autobiography written in tones rather than words, its chord changes and FX-adornments recounting moments of emotion, if not specific, lived details.
It’s also worth noting that this is a solo guitar record (which has to be a first for Editions Mego), one that can get vaguely new age at times and resemble the noodly end of post-rock at others (the strummed dynamics of “Brothers (for Matt)” reminds me more than a little bit of Mogwai’s “Summer (Priority Version)”). As much of a virtuoso as McGuire is, however, he is not trying to be Joe Satriani here. Though impressive in its own way, McGuire’s playing is a kind of quiet alchemy, wowing listeners through mystification rather than spectacle. To say that Living With Yourself is more closely related to the better solo efforts of Michael Rother or the breezy atmospherics of the Durutti Column would be accurate (and somewhat faint) praise, but it would fall short of recognizing just how versatile McGuire makes his instrument sound. By the album’s end, you’ll be returning to those Emeralds releases wondering if anybody else was even playing on them at all.