Album Review: Mark McGuire – Beyond Belief

Mark McGuire’s Beyond Belief is a behemoth of an album. It’s an epic double LP, nearly 80 minutes of expansive tracks that feel like the soundtrack to some existential, futuristic film. Though it’s largely an electronic instrumental album, Beyond Belief doesn’t fall into the usual electronic music category. While most synth-filled albums of late tend to keep things dark and brooding, McGuire opens the blinds and lets swaths of light into the proceedings. Think Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, and Causa Sui sharing some absinthe and some smoke. It’s this amazing mix of bright scenes with foreboding clouds in the distance. The result is a fantastic mix of post-rock, electronica, and prog that is stunning from start to finish.

“The Naacals” opens up peacefully with piano. Very svelte and calm. Tasteful guitar interplays with programmed drums and synth strings as the song builds to a triumphant crescendo. “The Past Presents The Future” is the dawn of some new beginning. A mix of Alan Parsons Project and Harmonia, this excellent track lets things get a bit darker with ominous synth growls enveloping you from both sides. McGuire knows how to layer a track to give it the feeling of propulsion. You can almost see the scenery flying by you as you listen to this track’s 15 minute run time unfold. “Sons of the Serpent” is this triumphant piece with soaring guitars and drums that sound like they were programmed on an Alesis SR-16. One of the few tracks with vocals, they work well to keep the cinematic feel going nicely. There’s a real 80s vibe to this song that begs for repeated listens.

I don’t know for certain if Beyond Belief is a concept album or not, but with “Earth: 2015” you really get the feeling there’s a story here. Kinetic programmed drums ping pong back and forth as tension builds with synthesizers creating a whirlwind of noise and chaos. There’s both a feeling of mining some sort of vintage musical well, while creating this aural neo-futuristic noir. These are songs you get lost in. “The Undying Stars” feels like clubbing on some distant planet or universe. More playful and less ominous, this song feels like a palate cleanser of sorts. “Locked In Our Sky Language(For Cyan)” is the longest track on the album at over 16 minutes and uses every bit of its run time wisely. Creating an ebb and flow with a nod to Krautrock’s repetition game, it builds onto itself beautifully. It feels like the great score work of Tangerine Dream, as well as McGuire’s contemporary Sinoia Caves. “Beyond” is another great vocal song, and it almost comes across as a pop track, which is then followed by the acoustic guitar track “True Love(Song For Rachel)”. “Belief” closes out the record, feeling like a summation of the record as a whole. Guitar, vocals, piano, synths, and repetition work to build this song into an amazing and epic coda.

At some points throughout this album I suppose you could call the music ambient. I think that term gets a bad rap, actually. Mark McGuire’s version of ambient is more of the cinematic variety. From the song titles to the album art to the massive scope within these tracks it feels like Beyond Belief is this free floating space opera. It tells a tale through music, emotion, and its ability to take you out of your own head and place you in the album’s own world. It’s a stunning piece of work. It truly is beyond belief.


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