“Ambient Heavyweights Keep The Juggernaut Rolling”.
The best way to describe the music of Marconi Union seems to be not so much in terms of jargon or lingo relative to the music industry but in terms of watercolour-painting techniques in the art world. Illustrative and impressionistic the colours and washes associated with these sound-scapes are both dark and bright, vivid and cloudy, coloured and contrasted yet always textured, balanced and spacious. If their paper is wet, the colours bleed together to form new blends and boundaries. Brushes are changed, sometimes the paper is dry and allows for more defined borders. Yet throughout their creations the standard of composition is astounding, the production and mastering impeccable. True artists in the very sense of the word.
Their new album Weightless (Ambient Submissions: Vol.2), released 22nd of September 2014 on the Just Music label levers off the back of their 2011 release Beautifully Falling Apart (Ambient Submissions: Vol.1). This album, combined with the seminal, heavily career- defining and until now unreleased track Weightless, created on the 16th of October 2011, was a defining moment in the bands career for many reasons and is still being written about to this day.
Beautifully Falling Apart was a junction in the career of the band, indicating a departure from the darker, more percussively punctuated albums including A Lost Connection (originally on the bands own digitally-based label Mu Transmissions in 2008) and an embarkation into deeply-ambient soundscapes with almost no rhythmic bed. Although risky in terms of career choice, this decision was well-received by critics and indeed the industry at large, obviously bolstered by a unique and until then unrecognised approach to collaborate that would see the band rise in terms of production, composition and acceptance into a standing applause from the mainstream.
Marconi Union created the first Weightless track when a representative from the British Academy of Sound Therapy approached them to create a piece of relaxing music. The piece was to be tested by the Mindlab Institute to try and ascertain its effectiveness for relaxation. Marconi Union jumped at the chance to be involved in such an interesting project and began writing in earnest. After testing was completed involving many subjects, scientists concluded that the music indicated reduced blood pressure, a slowed heart-rate and decreased levels of cortisol, a stress related hormone. Immediately after the results were published there was huge media reaction with some channels reporting that Weightless was “the most relaxing song ever!”. The track was reported in Time magazine as one of the “2014 Inventions of the Year” and one newspaper even warned motorists not to drive while listening to it. On the recent September, 2014 release the track is labeled as Weightless Part 1.
The band came together in 2002 when Richard Talbot met Jamie Crossley at a record shop they both frequented called The Polar Bear in Birmingham. It wasn’t until after the 2010 re-release of their now CD format album A Lost Connection that the band formally welcomed Duncan Meadows as a full time member. Meadows had previously played with them at a number of live gigs and 2012’s release Different Colours (again on Just Music) was the first for the now three-person outfit.
The culmination of this historical evolution has resulted in the release of Weightless (Ambient Submissions: Vol.2). An album that while not particularly lengthy at 42 minutes more than makes up for in terms of quality. Released at the same time was a video clip for the first and title track on the album, the 2011 juggernaught Weightless (Part 1). The video shows a remote-controlled ‘drone’ flying above the lake district, lit up with LED lighting at night. The frame-rate has been slowed and effected to create an hypnotic and highly effective piece of video.
Inspiration for the band comes from many places. The more usual books, films and travel but also cities (their 2009 album Tokyo), buildings and even records they really don’t like, using them to inspire adaptation and change.
If the pop charts are the fast food empire of the music industry, then Marconi Union are the a la carte, 5-star restaurant. The soundscapes are designed to inspire and relax, pulling you forward into an adventure in the air, rather than a journey on the ground. With tones one could be forgiven for believing are relatively simple, this complex and highly engineered sound design is of a calibre only masters could create. Both relaxing and highly-invigorating at the same time, the tracks create a timelessness divorced from the bondage of this dimensional body. A dimension that while necessary for our earthly survival may one day become simply a step into the greater universes bound by the forces of sound.