Recent years have seen the release of a wealth of electronic music, often spanning multiple micro-genres, making it increasingly challenging for artists to produce new and original works that stand apart. Reclusive Manchester-based outfit Marconi Union have steadily released albums of pristine, clinical electronic music over the last decade and their latest Beautifully Falling Apart sees them continue to refine their art in minimalist fashion.
2008’s A Lost Connection and 2009’s Tokyo set something of a personal benchmark for the trio, the former in particular coming close to pinpointing the very moment where hushed post-rock intersected with ambient electronica. In essence not a great deal has changed on Beautifully Falling Apart, although the use of guitars is less prominent compared to some of their previous releases. It offers proof that they inhabit similar surroundings and capture comparable moods to acts such as Loscil and Pausal.
Breathing Retake provides a suitably contemplative opening, plumes of cold electronics gently rising up against the pure, still musical terrain. It is one of the few tracks to have any obvious trace of guitar, and helps it to recall the memory of Labradford. Slow Collapse and Blue Collar Parade are both slowly evolving, orbiting pieces that sound like they could easily be surreptitiously inserted into Apollo by Brian Eno without anyone really noticing. The former in particular comes across as a dreamy sonic mirage, while the latter features stretched out, synthesised arches.
Losing The Light is a shimmering ambient lullaby and the title track features snippets of dialogue alongside field recordings of falling water which casts a more esoteric, drifting feel over the piece. The album reaches its pinnacle on final track A Shower Of Sparks, a deep, immersive sea of enveloping tones and textures, rich in microscopic detailing. It suggests the sound of Tim Hecker at his most quiescent, any harshness having been extracted and replaced by gentle melodic ebb and flow.
Beautifully Falling Apart places Marconi Union firmly in the vanguard of acts making atmospheric, ambient music. It may not be entirely flawless but much of it provides an absorbing, transporting experience and encourages the listener to simply sit back and enjoy the journey as it unfolds.