Along The Way marks Mark McGuire's first album since he quit Emeralds back in 2013 - weeks later the much-celebrated ambient-electronic group dissolved completely - however, it is by no means the beginning of his solo career. McGuire is a prolific, albeit under-the-radar, artist whose back catalogue - both unaccompanied and with Emeralds - boasts an eclectic mixture of ambient soundscapes, minimal beats, heavy guitars and wig-out solos. McGuire's output over the years echoes the boundaries he breaks musically; he is explorative in more ways than one.
This new offering lacks the distorted balls of 'A Young Person's Guide to...' or the wobbly fuzz of 'Get Lost' but still manages to be charismatically Mark McGuire with its open-plan, pioneering soundscapes, plucked single guitar notes, looping strums, echoic vocals, and venturing electronics. McGuire forages trough unmapped lands in his typically modest and blissful grace. Everything is intricate; each and every sound is both effortlessly spur-of-the-moment yet makes complete sense.
This lucid dream of record manages to be rather cheerful until we get to 'To The Macrobes (Where Do I Go?)', which pounds us with Tim Hecker-like terror and creepy John Carpenter repetitive keys, until McGuire's cheesy solo, like a hair metal superhero, slays the bubbling uncertainty and brings the listener back to the more serene environment that we became used to during the first few tracks. This is a theme that runs through the record: tranquillity is passive as terror lurks and probes without warning.
'The Instinct' at 12 minutes is the longest and slowest burning on Along The Way. Guitars noodle and coil, bells chime, building a looping canvas for more solos and self-expression, like a stoner jam session played over the top of Miami Vice car chase music. Towards the end of the epic track, the beats hammer in and it starts to resemble something not too far removed from Errors' excellent Have Some Faith In Magic.
Plenty can go on in your head while listening to Along The Way; you might have subconsciously completed a tricky '90s Japanese video game, signed up to a yoga retreat nestled in unexplored mountains, embarked on a peaceful, meditative, sci-fi hallucination, or unknowingly chanted the mantra from a new-age cult plucked straight out of a Thomas Pynchon novel. Of the infinite journeys your mind can take, each offers a completely different and uniquely personal exploration.
Like a book where you can choose your own ending or a sandbox video game, the true beauty of Along The Way and the rest of McGuire's output is that it is so free from the shackles of any genre or scene and so 'out there' that it is completely open to each listener's interpretation. Repeated listening will take you down new paths, unlocking Easter eggs along the way; immersive, entrancing and absolutely non-linear.