Marconi Union are Richard Talbot, Jamie Crossley and Duncan Meadows. The group originally formed circa 2002 when founding members Talbot & Crossley met whilst working in a Manchester record shop.
This month Just Music reissue Tokyo in an extended format and aptly named Tokyo+. The original album was released by German label Bine in 2009, but was only available in Germany as a very limited edition CD. Renamed Tokyo+, this release contains the original seven tracks together with a four track Live Studio Remixes EP.
Unlike other bands associated with Manchester, for over 10 years Marconi Union have quietly gone about their business produce a succession of excellent albums full of beautifully chilled, timeless and ambient instrumental music . Music that captures the essence of drifting clouds, gently lapping waves, relaxation and calm. Because of the unwavering and meticulous quality of the music Marconi Union produce, I am continually surprised to come across fans of ambient music that are not familiar with their work. This must been down to their attitude to the work and in no way a result of the quality of their output. Like their music, gently does it, not wishing to cause a stir or raise their heads too high in fear of exposure. So until that changes, I would like to announce Marconi Union as being the best kept secret of the past 10 years.
‘Tokyo+’ by Marconi Union, the original ‘Tokyo’ album together with a new accompanying EP ‘+’ of Live Studio Remixes is released this month by Just Music for the first time to a worldwide audience as a double album on 20th January 2017.
Marconi Union’s music develops an individual style all of its own with each release, and Tokyo was no exception: “The original idea (and title) for Tokyo stemmed from a chance comment. We had just finished recording a track and after playing it back one of us (we can’t remember who) said that it reminded them of Tokyo. Neither of of us had ever been to Tokyo and we realised that our entire conception of the city originated from films, TV and books. We liked this idea of creating music for a place that only existed in our minds. We weren’t interested in faithfully representing the reality of Tokyo and had no wish to make “authentic” Japanese music, we really just liked the images of Tokyo we’re regularly exposed to. We thought of this music as a form of Hi-Tech Ambience.”
The idea behind the accompanying Live Studio Remixes EP was Marconi Union grabbing the opportunity to return to the original material and explore it further. But rather than simply remixing the tracks they decided to completely deconstruct and rework them. Taking the original stems they created new loops and parts and combined the samples with live playing, with the addition of their live drummer, Phil Hurst. Each version was largely improvised and has that certain groove which can only really be achieved by the artists all playing live together at the same time. “We don’t perform live very often, so Tokyo + is a chance for our fans to hear not only updated versions of the Tokyo tracks, our present day take on its Hi-Tech Ambience, but also to hear us playing as a band.”
With Tokyo+, Marconi Union have released no fewer than 10 studio albums; and one as a collaboration with Jah Wobble. Since releasing the 2011 album Beautifully Falling Apart (Ambient Transmissions Volume 1), it appears the Just Music Label has fallen head over heels and made it their mantra to bring the wonderful music of Marconi Union to a wider audience by re-releasing all the albums (except Anomic Jah Wobble & Marconi Union – originally released on the 30 Hertz label).
Marconi Union Studio Albums
Under Wires and Searchlights (2003)
A Lost Connection (2008)
Beautifully Falling Apart (Ambient Transmissions Volume 1) (2011)
Different Colours (Just Music, 2012)
Weightless (Ambient Transmissions Volume 2) (Self-released limited 2012)
Anomic Jah Wobble & Marconi Union (30 Hertz 2013)
Weightless (Ambient Transmissions Volume 2) (Just Music, 2014)
Ghost Stations (Just Music, 2016)
Tokyo+ (Just Music, 2017)
Tokyo+ by Marconi Union is available via Just Music.
Deer Heart was written, recorded and meticulously pieced together at various locations in Berlin, Melbourne, the Canadian Rockies and Reykjavík’s Greenhouse Studios, and follows Tilman Robinson’s debut recording Network of Lies.
Tilman Robinson releases his second full-length album in a haze of glitch cut ups, distortion and tranquil beauty. Deer Heart is multi-layered. One minute beautiful, calm and endearing like a summer lake or snow covered forest, before sliding into darkness and shadows enveloping the listener as it pulls you from one state to another. Innocence, harsh coldness, this beautiful music plays out in black and white. Little room for colour. The music is mesmerising. At times sounding like a soundtrack to a spine-tingling Stephen King thriller; at others, more at home hanging in a gallery alongside abstract paintings, rather than boxed into any ill-fitting music category.
Like all great experimental albums, it is at times challenging. Pushing at boundaries and the simple notion of static, one dimensional forms of music.
With Deer Heart, Tilman Robinson draws from a wide range of musical influences and is intent on testing the psychological impacts of dense sound. Mixed by Valgeir Sigurðsson, best known for his work with Björk, Deer Heart finds Tilman Robinson elevating his sound into an unlikely mix of optimism and nihilism via dark sonic crevices. It is an album of depth and complexity; a record equally at home on the shelves of the most avid post-rock fan as it would in the ranks of any modern-composer collection.
Tilman Robinson is an Australian composer, producer and sound designer, creating electro-acoustic music across a range of genres including classical minimalism, improvised, experimental, electronic and ambient. Academy trained in the fields of both classical and jazz composition, his diverse output focuses on the psychological impact of sound.
One of the best albums of 2016, Deer Heart by Tilman Robinson is scheduled for release on 14 October 2016 through Hobbledehoy Record Co.
“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and love to everything” Plato
Everyone needs a little chill in their lives and in time to soundtrack a Balearic Winter Ambient Zone 2, the fifth album in The Just Music Cafe Compilation series, will be released on 20th January, 2016.
Alongside contributions from the likes Jon Hopkins, Marconi Union and Dan Arborise, the album features nine brand new tracks created exclusively for the label in response to a beautiful series of carefully selected photo images. Each artist prdoduced music to the atmosphere of the photo, each translating the feelings evoked in them by the image into an exquisite and fascinating piece of musical ambience.
Ambient Zone 2 – Just Music Cafe Vol.5 Tracklisting:
1. Digitonal – Sentinel
2. Afterhere – On Wings
3. Chris Coco – New Age Sunrise
4. Jon Hopkins – Autumn Hill
5. Sam Thomas – Seeing Or Agreeing
6. Loner – My Kingdom, Your Sunset
7. Echaskech – Caeleste
8. Xspance – The Last Sunrise
9. Opdot – Piano Monody
10. Marconi Union – Transient
11. Laki Mera – Talk To Me
12. Dan Arborise – Paths
PLEASE NOTE THIS COMPETITION HAS NOW CLOSED
To win a copy of Ambient Zone 2 – Just Music Cafe Vol.5 simply answer the question below
Which artist is often cited as pioneering ambient music?
a) Brian Eno
b) Brian Ono
c) Yoko Ono
Submit your entries to email@example.com with the subject line: ‘Ambient 2 Comp’ (other subject lines will not be entered) with your full name, address & contact number.
This competition ends on 14th December 2015.
The editor will randomly choose 5 winners from the correct answers. The editor’s choice is final.
In the late 1990s while on a trip collecting CDs for review, I had the good fortune of meeting Tony Morley at the Leaf Records office in Brixton. The CDs he was releasing and promoting via his promotions company No.9PR, helped to broaden my horizons with an eclectic mix of leftfield electronic and ambient experimental music. Of the many fascinating artists he introduced me to, Burnt Friedman and the Japanese composer, Susumu Yokota stood out as something very special. That day I received two of Susumu Yokota’s albums, Magic Thread (1998) and Image (1993-98), the latter being a compilation of earlier recordings.
Susumu Yokota – A Song Produced While Floating Alone on Christmas Day from the album Love Or Die (2007)
Though both albums made a deep impression, I wouldn’t count them among my favourites today. But there’s plenty to choose from. Yokota’s output was prolific, releasing no less than 23 studio albums under his own name and more under pseudonyms such as Anima Mundi, Ebi, Prism, Ringo, Stevia, Ying & Yang; as well as another three released simply as Yokota. He also released an album with Rothko, Distant Sounds Of Summer (2005). See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susumu_Yokota_discography
Susumu Yokota – Genshifrom the album Sakura (1999)
I have eight of his albums including two favourites, Sakura and Symbol. These two albums are among my favourite albums of all-time and are rarely away from the CD player whether at home or in my car. They epitomise Susumu Yokota‘s music – beautiful, serene and at times thought-provoking. His music was experimental and at times avant-garde, but always it seemed interesting.
Susumu Yokota – Kodomotachifrom the album Symbol (2005)
A death is always sad. But when someone so talented dies at such a young age it is of course, more tragic. Susumu Yokota was just 54 years old when he died on 27th March 2015 after “a long period of medical treatment.”. In these days of instant news across global social platforms, I also found it sad that Yokota’s death wasn’t reported until several months later. But this was apparently down to his family not knowing his music contacts until recently. His family released the following message:
“It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Susumu Yokota who passed away on 27th March, 2015 at the age of 54 after a long period of medical treatment. We are deeply thankful to the people who listened to and supported Susumu’s music during his lifetime. Please accept our sincere apologies for the delay in this announcement, as we were until recently unacquainted with Susumu’s music industry contacts.”
Susumu Yokota – Saku from the album, Sakura (1999)
His last studio album Lover, was released in 2012.
Susumu Yokota also released techno and house music and was a renowned DJ too. But it’s his experimental ambient, electronic music that I will always love and so fondly remember.
As a tribute to Susumu Yokota, The Leaf Label and Lo Recordings have joined forces to release My Energy, a six track EP featuring selected highlights from Yokota’s varied and acclaimed back catalogue, most of which were originally released on his own Skintone label. The EP is available now on Bandcamp as a ‘Pay what you want’ release with all proceeds going to Animal Refuge Kansai. Yokota was a lifelong animal lover, and the charity was chosen at his family’s request.
The Orb are currently amidst a 25 year anniversary UK Tour promoting their current retrospective 4 CD box set, History Of The Future – The Island Years.
It seems almost incomprehensible that it’s now 25 years since Alex Paterson took his first giant steps under the banner of The Orb. Caught in the escalating rush of acid house and armed with dream-realising new technology, Alex, and whoever else was on his flight path at the time, started pumping their inherent sense of mischief into panoramic soundscapes with heavyweight beats, taking the live electronic experience to new levels.
A quarter century later, the world is a much different place after technology progressed further, changing the way music was created and heard as the next century got under way. By then, The Orb had already charted a fearlessly wayward course, while unleashing one of the most uncompromisingly innovative bodies of work of the last century, no sound too extreme or source too cheeky.
This is why we’re gathered here today – to mark The Orb’s Silver Jubilee with a collection of landmarks from their first two decades, plus a bunch of extra treats. When Alex took those first, tentative steps 25 years ago he was in the throes of the second revolution to erupt in his life after punk‘s big bang. Acid house opened up a new form of anarchy, using machines before they were changed to protect the innocent. There was always attitude in the Orb’s ambience, as Alex declared more than once, “we’ve got the same attitude as punk rock.”
After Alex and first Orb partner Jimmy Cauty’s initial dalliances in Cornwall, the first major statement under The Orb name was 1989’s A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Universe, among early releases on Alex and Youth’s W.A.U. Mr Modo label.
Tellingly, this set starts with a high definition declaration of dance floor domination with the thunderous Orbital Dance Mix of the track which appeared on July, 1990’s A Huge Ever Growing Remix EP.
This key track in Orb lore appears here in three different incarnations, also including 1991’s Aubrey Mix Mk II ambient version from 1991’s Aubrey Mixes: The Ultra World Excursions, with crashing waves and clucking chickens lashing the pivotal melody. The live version shows how the track could also be cranked into the ultimate, all-going-off set closer. When it provided their 20 minute Peel session in December, 1989, it became the most requested in the show’s history.
The follow-up, Little Fluffy Clouds, (which started life in Alex’s bedroom at the infamous Coach House he was then sharing with Youth), was created at that magical time when sampling technology offered new oceans of possibilities (which turned into a Pandora‘s Box of litigation as claims rained in after these first innocent flurries of exploration).
1990’s Little Fluffy Clouds kicked off with English country narrative from Face The Facts presenter John Waite before the famous Rickie Lee Jones promo interview snippet which came with her Flying Cowboys album. Demonstrating the unlikely sources which separated the genuinely creative from mindless plagiarism, the beats hail from a Harry Nilsson track, introduced by Ennio Morricone harmonica. Coldcut, who’d been developing their own strain of underground sonic science, are here with their aptly-titled Heavyweight Dub Mix.
Next single from 1991’s Adventures Beyond The Ultra World was psychedelic reggae outing Perpetual Dawn, here heard in its Solar Youth version and the first of Andrew Weatherall’s cataclysmic pair of Ultrabass remixes, underpinned by Jah Wobble‘s chest-rattling bass.
Blue Room itself is a stratospheric epic with long-time mucker Steve Hillage‘s ether-surfing guitar, Miquette Giraudy‘s ghostly synths plus sirens, NASA astronauts and disemboided vocal, again underpinned by Jah Wobble’s inimitable Earth’s core-shaking basslines.
Clocking in at a second below the 40 minute limit imposed by chart compilers Gallop, Blue Room was released as a twelve-inch single on June 8, reaching number eight as the longest single to make the charts. It’s here in three versions – the single edit, live and Excerpt 605 on the rarities disc.
U.F. Orb was unveiled to the media at London’s Planetarium. It came as a shocked but air-punching triumph when the album invaded the charts at number one. It continues its mighty presence on this collection with Majestic and Close Encounters appearing in disc two’s remixes.
Close Encounters showed how The Orb could deliver floor-destroying techno, working with Glasgow titans Stuart MacMillan and Orde Meikle, aka Slam, who‘d recently started their Soma label while running the raging inferno of their Slam club. If the original version was dominated by the astonishingly crowd-levitating groove, disc two’s ambient version brings out myriad other subtleties.
Disc three captures the sonic splendour of the live Orb show around this time, drawn from Trekkoner, Copenhagen and Woodstock 2 in 1993-94, hotwiring singles and album highlights with the spontaneous combustion of the duo‘s live mixing, which meant every gig was different. They were also playing a song called Assassin – 1992’s next single. Originally a fluid slab of astral funk draped in radioactive sonic worms, it became a prime example of an Orb piece spreading its wings live in various directions, appearing here as single edit and in two different live incarnations.
1993 saw angry grey streaks appearing in the little fluffy clouds, manifesting as the dark side of The Orb in mid-1994’s abrasive Pomme Fritz (The Orb’s Little Album), fired by rekindled punk spirit with anger often the energy.
Released in July 1994, Pomme Fritz sparked hostility everywhere from record company to press, although it still made number six in the UK charts (though not this set!).
With slate wiped clean, The Orb could move on and make their under-rated masterpiece Orbus Terrarum. This double-album epic of astonishing complexity, breadth and depth continued Alex’s exploring of a, “collage of noises that had never been heard before in that sort of music”, venturing into avant garde, musique concrete and classical realms, shot with the wildest dub.
With bassist Simon Phillips and percussionist Nick Burton also still around, The Orb set off on the album’s orchestral dub voyages, including the supremely evocative Oxbow Lakes, here in its album version.
Alex could now reflect on “two years of pretty hard labour” which had seen everything change, including record company, management and musical collaborators. There was still pressure to set their controls for the heart of the charts as Orbus Terrarum had just scraped the top 20 while there hadn’t been a huge single, so it came as another surprise when Toxygene reached number four in the singles chart in February, 1997; The Orb’s highest placed single yet. As a result, mothership album Orblivion sold well too.
The hit came with a beautiful slice of Orb-lore. During the ‘90s, The Orb trotted out remixes for a galaxy of artists, from Primal Scream to Robbie Williams, even a U2 knock-back, as Alex stuck to his motto, “you get an Orb track with bits of song on it.” Jean Michel Jarre’s 1977 hit Oxygene was a hugely-influential electronic landmark. To celebrate its 20 year anniversary, the French composer had created a sequel called Oxygene 7-13, The Orb were called to remix Oxygene 8. The composer was not too pleased remarking, “It’s not that I didn’t like it, but I wanted the first wave of remixes to be linked with Oxygene’s theme and textures.’ Alex simply took his remix, retitled it ‘Toxygene’ [after being out-voted on ‘Toxic Genes’] and released it as first single from the album it had just found a home in, a hit in its own right. The single was released in a pink box containing two CDs with mixes inclusing Ganja Kru’s drum ’n’ bass workout (included here).
Orblivion featured a more streamlined Orb with Alex, Thomas and Andy, plus Steve Hillage, Miquette Girady and tour DJ Lewis Keogh. The object of the exercise this time seems to be how much fun they can have bending melodies and beats into new dimensions. After the ambient exploits of the previous two albums, the vibe around Orblivion was that The Orb were back in a funky mood, without trying to lead or start new trends because they’d already done that.
Next single was Asylum, a pulsing electro beast co-written with tour DJ Lewis Keogh, riding a gently squelching riff draped in lazy steel guitar and Detroit techno melody. The track is here in its album version.
After the unfettered creativity of the Orblivion phase and top five success of the single, darker clouds were again gathering again towards the end of the century. Although recorded through 1999, the delightfully multi-hued Cydonia got caught up in internal record label reshufflings, meaning it wasn’t released until 2000. Named after the area of Mars where the Viking space craft photographed a Sphinx-like face, Cydonia remains one of the most diverse and overlooked items in the Orb arsenal.
The core team of Alex, Andy Hughes, Thomas Fehlmann, Simon Phillips and Nick Burton was joined by Fil de Gonidec [another old Killing Joke mucker], Sabrettes’ Nina Walsh and Freaky Realistic singer Aki Omori, who unleashed her sepulchral vocals on a traditional Vietnamese melody for first single, Once More.
Meanwhile, Nina co-wrote and sang some of Alex‘s old lyrics on second single Ghostdancing, whose lustrous, hallucino-sheened future pop inevitably incurred flak for daring to venture near traditional song forms. This was easily dismissed by Alex: “This may be but they were ORB pop songs,“ while adding that, “Ghostdancing is probably one of the best Orb tunes we’ve ever done.” Disc two features the spectral textures of Mark Pritchard’s sumptuously deep remix.
There we have it: all aspects of the Orb in one boxset: the singles which took them to mass success, remixes which kept the underground happy, the kind of live show which blazed a trail for others to take dance music to the stadiums, plus some of the amazing videos which accompanied most of the singles assembled here.
The Orb – History Of The Future: The Island Years
Disc One – The Singles Collection
Disc One – The Singles Collection
01: A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre of the Ultraworld: Loving You – Orbital Dance mix (Alex Paterson and Jimmy Cauty)
02: Little Fluffy Clouds Single version
03: Perpetual Dawn, Solar Youth mix
04: Blue Room, 7” version
05: Assassin, 7” version (Alex Paterson, Kris Weston and & DJ Lewis)
06: Oxbow Lakes, Album version
07: Asylum, Album version
08: Toxygene, Album version
09: Once More, Album version
10: Ghost Dancing, Album version
Disc Two – Remixes and Rarities
01: A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre of the Ultraworld: Loving You Aubrey Mix Mk II (Alex Paterson and Jimmy Cauty )
02: Little Fluffy Clouds, Coldcut Heavyweight Dub mix
03: Perpetual Dawn, Andrew Weatherall Ultrabass 1 mix
04: Blue Room, Excerpt 605
05: Majestic, Heavy Mix (The Orb and Youth)
06: Close Encounters, Smile, You’re On Camera mix (The Orb and Slam)
07: Assassin, Another Live mix
08: Toxygene, Ganja Kru mix
09: Once More, Mark Pritchard mix
Disc Three – Live In Copenhagen & Woodstock
01: Towers of Dub, Live @ Trekkoner Sunset Gig, Copenhagen ‘93
02: Little Fluffy Clouds, Live @ Trekkoner Sunset Gig, Copenhagen ‘93
03: Blue Room, Live @ Trekkoner Sunset Gig, Copenhagen ‘93
04: Star 6 & 7 8 9, Live @ Trekkoner Sunset Gig, Copenhagen ‘93
05: Valley, Live @ Trekkoner Sunset Gig, Copenhagen ‘93
06: Assassin, Live at Woodstock 2, USA ‘94
Disc Four – DVD
01: Little Fluffy Clouds, Promotional video
02: Perpetual Dawn, Promotional video
03: Assassin, Promotional video
04: Oxbow Lakes, Promotional video
05: Pomme Fritz, Promotional video
06: Toxygene, Promotional video
07: DJ Asylum, Promotional video
08: Once More, Promotional video
09: Blue Room, Top Of The Pops ‘92
10: Toxygene, Top Of The Pops ‘97
11: Little Fluffy Clouds, Live from T In The Park
12: Perpetual Dawn, 10” TV advert
The Orb – 25 Anniversary UK Tour Dates
6th Nov Gloucester, Guildhall
8th Nov Bridport, Electric Palace
9th Nov Nottingham, Marcus Garvey Centre
10th Nov Holmfirth, Picturedrome
13th Nov Exeter, Pheonix
14th Nov Bournemouth, Old Firestation
15th Nov Hebden Bridge, Traders
16th Nov Dublin, Button Factory
17th Nov Buckley, Tivoli Venue
24th Nov Cambridge, Corn Exchange