Mark McGuire Credit: Ken Seeno

I spent a couple of years in the late 80s working at a Lincoln Park music shop called the Inside Track, one of the first stores in the area to focus on the then-burgeoning CD market. In some ways it was a depressing experience. I was thrilled to finally work in a record shop, but for many of the customers the CD was nothing more than a novel status symbol. Some customers were only interested in albums that could show of their new stereo systems were buying execrable electronic music like the teeth-chattering and awful Deep Breakfast by Ray Lynch and other post-new age crap issued on labels like Private Music and Narada, the late-80s equivalent of late-50s stereo-demonstration records released by Audio Fidelity.

Many customers seemed deaf to the actual content of these albums, concerned only with showing off how pristine their new hi-fi was. There were customers who would only buy new recordings if they were all digital—DDD, in the thankfully forgotten parlance. I’ve never romanticized the pops and scratches of vinyl, but the way certain folks fetishized the hermetic sound quality of late-80s digital music was incredibly disheartening to a young, idealistic music obsessive. These memories were unfortunately triggered by the first two tracks on Beyond Belief (Dead Oceans), the new album by Mark McGuire—it’s officially released on Friday. As a member of Cleveland’s Emeralds McGuire was an instrumental force in the reconsideration of digital electronic music like late-period Tangerine Dream. His group made some interesting music structurally and melodically, but I always had an uneasy relationship with it due to its seemingly uncritical embrace of shitty 80s music.

“The Naacals” and “The Past Presents the Future,” the two pieces that open Beyond Belief, meld piano, synthesizers, and electric guitar to create bombastic instrumentals that combine that post-new age aesthetic with the proggy flourishes of the Alan Parsons Project and, I dunno, the aesthetic tendencies Jan Hammer brought to bear on his theme song for Miami Vice. That is, they make me cringe. Luckily, as the 78-minute album continues to unfold it becomes a bit more interesting, if not exactly gritty. He actually sings on “Sons of the Serpent,” another song with a late-80s vibe, but one with an impressive density that rewards wading through various layers, however artificial they may be. Today’s 12 O’Clock Track is the epic, preposterously titled “Earth: 2015,” a pulse-quickening instrumental that would seem like a natural fit on the soundtrack of an old, dated sci-fi film, one in which quaint neon lights are reflected on a rain-soaked street. If you can’t tell by now, I have a bad attitude about this music. McGuire plays the Hideout on Wednesday night in advance of the album’s release.

Today’s playlist:

Marty Ehrlich Large Ensemble, A Trumpet in the Morning (New World)
Wooden Shjips, Wooden Shjips (Holy Mountain)
Ty Citerman, Bop Kabbalah (Tzadik)
Seda Röder, Black and White Statements: The Austrian Sound of Piano Today (Gramola)
Various artists, Tres Chic! More French Girl Singers of the 1960s (Ace)