Review: MJ Guider – Precious Systems

MJ Guider is the recording alias of New Orleans resident Melissa Guion. She released a 5-track cassette of self-described Melissa and machines music in early 2014. Since then, MJ Guider has evolved into a three-piece band for performance purposes, albeit one whose musicians remain “outnumbered by electricity-powered participants.” Soon enough, those participants will surely develop sentient intelligence of their own and won’t even need the talented guidance provided by Guion. At that point in the not-too-distant future, all musicians will look exactly like Agent Smith from The Matrix and any human slave who attempts to even gently rattle a tambourine or tap out a rhythmical beat on the electrified bars of their cyber cage will be instantly eliminated by a time-travelling Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

For the time being at least, machines are still our peaceful and docile servants, so let’s enjoy MJ Guider’s music while we still can. If, like me, you too live in a state of constant anxiety that your laptop is on the cusp of biting off your own fingers or your toaster is likely to leap up from the kitchen surface at any moment to start firing burning-hot Pop-Tarts directly into your fragilely fleshly face, then Precious Systems might provide a mellow form of temporary solace. That’s not to say the record is completely free of ominous undertones, however.

Generally speaking, Precious Systems is quite a dreamy and ambient affair, one which invites comparisons to fellow artists from the esteemed roster of the Kranky label. With its ghostly lullaby whispers and foggy, dreamlike textures, tracks such as ‘Surfacing First’ certainly wouldn’t sound out of place on one of Grouper’s albums. Similarly, ‘Second Surface’ recalls the shimmering melancholia of Honey Owens’ Valet project. Guion, too, loads her work with blankets of brain-enveloping synth tones and even when a cleaner piano sound is used for the intro to ‘Former Future Beings’, it’s soon drowned out by hazier textures. That doesn’t mean this is a completely warm, cuddly and overly tranquil record, however. With their 80s basslines, gothic keyboards and haunted vocal moans, the atmospheres of ‘Triple Black’ and ‘Their Voices Clear Now’ are intensely spooky, as if Guion has tried to boil down the bleakest Cure number to its darkest, bitterest jus.

MG Guider’s material isn’t all strictly ambient either. ‘White Alsatian’ is decorated with faster and thumpier beats (relatively speaking) and Precious Systems’ penultimate track is a hypnotic ten-minute loop experiment built around the repeated mantra of “in control”. Guion needn’t have emphasised this point so heavily because throughout this enchanting record she proves very much in control of her finely-crafted glacial synthpop. In control, that is, until her machines fully come to life and take over the reins. Anyway, I have to go now. My laptop’s giving me one of its funny looks…

Written by JR Moores