Until a couple of years ago, the electronic noise and extended synthesiser workouts of the prolific Ohio-based trio Emeralds were only familiar to people who had encountered them live or stumbled across one of their numerous self-released CD-Rs, most of which showcased them jamming in their basement. Then came two fine studio albums, What Happened? and Emeralds appearing almost back-to-back in 2009, followed by the highly acclaimed Does It Look Like I'm Here? in 2010.

Whilst Emeralds haven't released anything under their own name since then, the individuals behind the band have been anything but idle. Guitarist Mark McGuire has released a few solo albums and has toured extensively, synth guru Steve Hauschildt issued a trance-influenced album on Kranky, and John Elliott has been busy running his own label Spectrum Spools which has released over 20 albums in the last couple of years, some of which (Imaginary Softwoods, Outer Space, Mist) are actually groups or side-projects which he plays in.

The three of them have now regrouped for Just to Feel Anything, their fifth full album release under the name Emeralds, and the album's overall sound is unmistakably them, with the familiar intertwining of Hauschildt's pulsing Krautrock-style synth work and McGuire's freeform guitar solos, although there are noticeable attempts to stretch themselves and try to push things forward.

Whereas a lot of those early home recordings and live events were built around improvisation and jams, their studio albums have always seemed more controlled and planned than that. Just to Feel Anything follows this path. Although the seven tracks here show that these three musicians could go off at any moment into lengthy improvisation, there is a very strong sense of melody and composition. It appears carefully arranged and composed rather than just being a record of a jam session.

This time around the band has subtly introduced new instruments and sounds into the mix. As well as the bank of synths and guitar effects that create their sound, they have adopted Fender Rhodes piano, organ and acoustic guitar, but perhaps the biggest change is the introduction of the steady beat of the distinctive Roland TR-808 drum machine. This gives tracks like 'Andrenochrome' and 'Everything is Inverted' a pulsating, danceable core.

The most dominant influence may still be the German synthesiser experimentalists of the 1970s but, perhaps due to the presence of the 808, Just to Feel Anything evokes the music of the 1980s more than on their previous releases. Even a title like 'Andrenochrome' hints at the gloss and the excess of that particular decade.

Another less predictable '80s influence is evident on 'Through and Through' which, with its soft synth underscore and straight forward lead guitar lines, could almost be an outtake from one of Mark Knopfler or Ry Cooder's film scores.

Normal service is resumed for 'Everything is Inverted', which is a much faster track and is basically a frantic duel between the twin leads of McClure's guitar and Hauschildt's synth. 'The Loser Keeps America Clean' provides more contrast and is at odds with the rest of the album. It is perhaps the only track where you can't distinguish the separate parts of the band as they have come together to create a large wall of noise, which is only broken up with some fluttering electronics. The title track, 'Just to Feel Anything' is more familiar Emeralds territory - a pulsing synth pattern which builds up, and trancelike elements which combine with McGuire's fluid guitar lines.

Although the faster, 808-propelled tracks were the highlights of my first few listens, closing piece 'Search for Me in the Wasteland' is a beautiful, dreamy ending. Guitars are carefully layered and they weave around a cyclical melody. Again, this is one that could spiral off into a huge improvised piece but they are disciplined enough to make it work within the confines of the studio album.

Overall, Just to Feel Anything is the sound of a band moving forward whilst holding on to the elements that make them special. At times it feels very different to their earlier work, yet still manages to fit perfectly with their other releases, and that's quite a good trick to pull off.