Mark McGuire Credit: Courtesy the Artist

Mark McGuire has built a modest career out of revisiting and reshaping conventions of instrumental music from the 70s and 80s, much of which could be called new age—though his early work in Cleveland trio Emeralds reached back further to the kosmische sound of Tangerine Dream. Over time, new age has become a big inspiration for a certain segment of the underground music world—especially young folks who, like McGuire, missed out on the movement the first time around. For a while McGuire toggled between synthesizer music and acoustic-guitar material, but in recent years he combined both on a series of bloated albums, none more corpulent than Beyond Belief, which made the work of Alan Parsons seem minimal. I’m happy to report that his new album, Ideas of Beginnings (VDSQ), embraces more modest means, sticking mostly to pretty patterns strummed and plucked on acoustic guitar. McGuire doesn’t go for John Fahey’s American Primitive sound—instead, he stays true to his new age aesthetic, creating gently rolling patterns embellished with sparkling melody lines that soothe rather than provoke, even if there is a swelling sense of propulsion in his playing. Here and there he layers found sounds—conversation or environmental recordings—and on “To Continue,” among several other pieces, he switches to luminescent electric guitar arpeggios that pile up in clouds of reverb without altering the general effect.   v