We can all poke fun at Paul “Bear” Vasquez and his overwhelming experience of trekking through the woods to see a clearing and then, a double rainbow. His reaction is what turned an otherwise commonplace and rather lovely discovery into a viral sensation. The actual sight in itself was indisputably beautiful. Vasquez might be immortalised in comedy by falling over backwards in awe but in essence, we also enjoy the sight of the double rainbow. Don’t laugh. Any landscape, in fact, can be of enough power to floor us. And I’m guessing Vasquez might himself be a fan of ambient music considering an act like Marconi Union are very much capable of evoking these grand visions. Beautifully Falling Apart, like much of the Manchester act’s work since 2003’s Under Wires and Searchlights, is visceral and dramatic; soothing in the sense that the sounds rarely go right up in your face but exciting in the sense that they enhance a sensation that’s already there. Had Vasquez walked through the clearing to see a double rainbow, with this music playing in the background, he might have had a heart attack.
The term Beautifully Falling Apart however, is meant to demonstrate the sensation you get when your eyes witness something wonderful that is actually, in theory, destructive. The band uses the example of a group of road workers, plugging away with an angle grinder under the floodlights of a motorway. In the group’s words: “He is lit from behind and surrounded by a shower of sparks and shadows. In that moment you only see the striking beauty of the image and forget about the hard, dangerous and dirty job he’s doing. Sometimes, things beautifully fall apart.” Ambient music, at least in this case, isn’t entirely about vivid, awe-inspiring landscapes. There is a darker side to Marconi Union’s music. It helps us to set them aside from other acts of the same ilk, for the better.
‘Blue Collar Parade’’s tones gently rise out of the cracks in the ground, calmly surrounding your ears with a luscious, rich sense of calm. But beneath the alleviating backdrop is a very haunting undertone. A looped, subtly-applied guitar line irks away in the background; it mimics a hard item of machinery chiselling away at the ground, like in the above description of the record. If this is what Marconi Union intended to convey – this sense of beauty and destruction locking horns – they’ve done it with aplomb.
These songs stick with you and unlike our stereotype of a chilled-out, ambient album, this isn’t bed-time music. It’s actually quite the opposite. Only in ‘Losing Their Light’ does a song adhere to a traditional mould of sedated, resplendent music, spanning over seven-minutes and leaving you in a state of ease. The rest gouges away at your very inners, tormenting you and leaving you cold and edgy. This is barely anything like the audible companion of a double rainbow – it’s far more like an avalanche, a volcano; such striking, glorious and powerful images, both of which are capable of the most extreme devastation.