Marconi Union is a studio and performance group out of Manchester, England that started producing music together in 2002. This is their tenth album. The three musicians Richard Talbot, Jamie Crossley and Duncan Meadows amalgamate ambient styling with electronica, minimalism, and avant-jazz.

What makes their music so compelling is the manner in which the layers of sound slowly unfold and rise to the surface of the sound. This album shows that they’re still fresh and inventive after 17 years of working together. The songs on the album were created by the core Marconi Union trio without guest artists, percussion or brass. The focus is on sensory impressions created by the various synthetic sounds.

The album begins with “A.M.I.D” (6:32). It presents characteristic Marconi Union sounds with layers of instruments and textures. Track 2: “Mossfield” is an opulent piece of aural confection. It features wordless vocal tracks that are warm and slightly haunting. Track 3 “Imbalance” is a song in the ambient style, a impressionistic space-age piece with sounds floating through the dark matter of the cosmos. This piece is followed by Track 4: “Permafrost.” Once again, wordless vocal sounds are used. This song gives the impression of disembodied voices floating on clouds. The restrained patience of the composition makes it all the more superb.

Track 5: “Fractured” echoes and develops the styling of the previous song. A gentle pulsing tone carries the piece forward as different synth effects grow richer and more complex. The second half of the song shifts into a fully ambient bowl of sonic soup. Track 6: “Dead Air” is the title track. Once again, wordless vocals punctuate a delicate fog of sound effects. The song evolves into a slightly eerie, spacey track with gentle pulsing beneath wispy fragments of vocals reminiscent of Gregorian chants. The album wraps with Track 7: “Burned.” This track is a bit warmer and echoes the effects palette of Track 2. It slowly proceeds to a great crescendo midway through. The textures slowly retreat into a lighter, joyfully ticklish sound as the song fades out. 

The album is quite fine for meditation, relaxation, healing modalities, and coven work. The music on this album is admirable both for the level of sophistication the group has attained over the years, and for the sheer delicacy of restraint. Less is more. The textures are somewhat lighter and more spare than in previous albums, and their instrumental/vocal sound choices reflect an elevated new aesthetic. Highly recommended. 

~review by Elizabeth Hazel

Artist: Marconi Union
Just Music, November 2019.
CD $12.69, Vinyl $22.99, mp3 $7.99

(ambient/ experimental)