Signals is the latest album from Marconi Union. The Manchester trio consists of Richard Talbot, Jamie Crossley, and Duncan Meadows, and they specialise in ambient and electronic synth and organic sound. Signals come and go, and they take on different meanings, atmospheres, and aspects. They act as a form of communication, spanning the whole spectrum of human life and experience, carrying leisurely and relaxed radio broadcasts to dire warnings, transmitting from the latest updates in cutting edge technology to abandoned and stale relics from a long-ago past. Older voices from decades ago are caught in the airwaves of today, and their signals continue to resonate. No one knows where they are today, or how their lives deviated from that initial moment of recording.
Signals has a ghostly vibe to it, but among the 80’s-styled synths and its strong, undiluted primary colours, the modern day is also present and accounted for. This shows its face through the clean and reverberating notes, which sparkle and shimmer, and are made all the more magical when placed in front of the strobing synths. Sometimes, these notes cascade downwards, creating pure waterfalls of sound, and also feeling somewhat kaleidoscopic as they gently sway and descend. The creativity and imagination within their ambient and electronic music has always been second to none, and it’s no coincidence that the trio continue to attain high standards.
The sunshine-touched melody on opener ‘Cycles Repeat’ is absolutely gorgeous, and the tribal rhythms help to propel the track forward. The steady drums give the electronics a freedom to develop, and the recurring melodies are stronger for it. But the drums are ready to mix things up and the ambient terrain slowly morphs into a jazz-like realm. The drums also increase the music’s flexibility as well as its overall energy; they aren’t rigid or fixed at all, and Signals cruises along its running length as well as its wavelength with plenty of fizz.
The signals bleep and blip along their path, providing mysterious, encoded messages as well as rays of hope, thanks to the higher energy and the cleaner notes, which gives the record a feeling of ever-brightening, dawn-like optimism even among the prevailing mystery and dusty echoes of doubt. That feeling of intrigue and mystery only amplifies the music – what does this signal hold, not only for the one receiving it right now, but its many implications on the future?