Marconi Union Haunts "Ghost Stations": Echoes Bonus CD of the Month for August
The English ambient trio Marconi Union returns with a new album of deep glitch and mysterious excursions. Consisting of just four long, 10-to-14 minute tracks, the band mostly jettisons the dub ambient sound that had marked their previous work and drift into pure space. The album is bookended by the two most driving tracks, “Sleeper” and “Riser.”
“Sleeper” is the darker of the two. Out of abstract sounds, an industrial groove emerges against horror-movie organ, nattering cicada guitar and insistent loops. This track is the yin to the yang of their famous earlier composition “Weightless” which was promoted by the British Academy of Sound Therapy as “the world’s most relaxing song.” There is no anxiety-reduction in “Sleeper,” as Giorgio Li Calzi blows some Miles-inspired trumpet blasts and stacked trumpet chords across the ominous rhythm. This sleeper is in a fever dream.
“Riser” opens in a similarly disconnected fashion recalling Miles Davis’ “He Loved Him Madly,” with haunting abstract sounds, disconnected guitar riffs, and surging pads. But then the groove comes in and you’re at home, or at least, home in space. Synths whoosh by, unmoored sounds drift through, and then Jamie Crossley’s electric guitar starts threading a melody, first in call and response with a synthesizer, then giving way to more trumpet from Li Calzi.
The middle tracks are less rhythm-driven. “Remnant/Shadow Scheme” begins surprisingly with spare piano chords. It’s an Enoesque textural expanse featuring mellotron string pads and shadowy noises wafting through a spare, open sound field. It’s the score you might hear in a derelict and decayed factory.
While “Remnant/Shadow Scheme” eventually picks up a groove six minutes in, “Abandoned/In Silence” remains in languid repose for over seven minutes. This is an ambient chamber work of sustained strings, Harold Budd-like piano chords and mournful clarinet provided by Andy Dobson of Digitonal. Eventually a reverse guitar chord is looped into a rhythm, and marching 4/4 drums push the piece along.
On Ghost Stations, Marconi Union continues to be one of the most inventive and challenging of ambient bands.
~ John Diliberto
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