Marconi Union is an ambient, electronic-based musical group from England who has become popular worldwide for their genre-pushing sounds. Their youtube videos alone have made them cult figures and one of the hippest draws around. How do they top their last album (Weightless) from which the main tune was named by U.K. scientists as the most relaxing song ever produced? How about a new album (their ninth) called Ghost Stations that has some eerie connotations. The album graphics show deserted, aging buildings (abandoned train stations perhaps?), but there is another theme here the group could be exploring. Their name, after all, derives from the Italian engineer known for his pioneering work on long-distance radio transmission. So what if they are really referring to ghost radio stations -- stations from the past that no longer exist, or stations that never existed, or stations that exist but can only be heard through special circumstances (it might help to be well-grounded [sorry]). Scientists tell us that every radio and television transmission ever created on earth has gone out into the universe and is traveling (at the speed of sound instead of light?) to far-flung galaxies (will aliens appreciate the “I Love Lucy” TV show?). So maybe these are the ghost stations. Or maybe the aliens are sending out similar transmissions which are headed our way and show up here on those big dishes in the deserts as ghostly beeps and squeaks that we have yet to decipher as their “I Love Luna” or whatever.

Speculation aside, what we do know is that Marconi Union has an excellent new ambient music album that pushes the envelope of what we have come to expect in this genre. OK, they are not the first to insert rhythms (and not just waves or pulses, but industrial whonks) into the sound, but there have not been many who have invited outside musicians on trumpet and clarinet to come in and give ambient performances (as MU does here). What is especially gratifying about these four compositions (that each are either 10, 12 or 14-plus minutes long) is that they have several sections, many moods and tempo changes. This keeps the music interesting. Much ambient music sets one mood or sound up and then just drones on until they run out of space on the CD. So it is quite refreshing to have new developments continuously throughout these Marconi pieces. Trying to describe lengthy musical numbers such as these is a fairly wasted effort. As with all music, it is simply best to listen to it and make up your own mind. But if you like ambient music, you should love this work; and if you are as yet undecided about the genre, just take a listen or two and let the sounds work on you. You might find that this style has a lot more going for it than you were led to believe, especially when the music is molded and shaped by masters of the genre such as Marconi Union. Pretend you are an old tube-and-coil radio, and let them turn you on [sorry].