Four More Refactions: Marconi Union, AjantaMusic, Michael Hewett & Forastiere

Here’s four more stories behind the sound of Refractions: The Echoes Living Room Concerts Volume 12.
Refractions Cover
Marconi Union is the duo of Jamie Crossley and Richard Talbot from Manchester, England. Even that piece of information was hard to come by as the duo hadn’t done any interviews and didn’t put their names on their two CDs, Under Wires and Searchlights and Distance. But we were totally entranced by the bands textured, ambient guitarscapes and glitch electronics. DistanceSurprisingly, they agreed to play live for us when we traveled to London in May of 2006. All the more surprising, it was their first live performance ever and really, the first time they’d even played together. They met us at Fortress Studios, a recording and rehearsal studio in London. I had interviewed Gary Cobain from the Future Sound of London on the top floor a few years ago, but this was in the basement. It was a large, but hardly cavernous low-ceilinged room, so of course it had a PA system that would fill an arena with sound. Marconi Union cranked it up to 11, driving their often ethereal sound straight into the cerebral cortex. Echoes producer Jeff Towne attempted to monitor the session on headphones but it was pointless and even the rock band rehearsing next door could barely penetrate the room. But all that volume was used to render some beautiful music and Sleepless, the track that appears on Refractions, is a dream. It was the first Marconi Union performance, first interview and the first pictures of the group. Marconi Union

Also in London on the same trip, we caught up with AjantaMusic. I talked about them quite a bit in an earlier Echoes Blog. Robin Simon, former guitarist with Ultravox and Magazine and his brother, Paul Simon, former drummer with Cowboys International, have been making ambient exotica inspired by their stays on Ibiza. The two set up in a small front parlor of their quaint Victorian Gardenhouse. There was a bit more backing tracks to this performance than we’re used to, but I think I like this version of And Now We Dream better than the version on their album. I especially like the sound of Robin’s electric guitar more than the acoustic on their CD. Also, calledAnd Now We Dream. AJantaDream

Michael Hewett’s performance doesn’t have any great stories behind it. He’s a phenomenal post-Michael Hedges finger-style guitarist using lots of electronic processing. He brought in his quartet which includes both cello and 6-string electric bass along with percussion. Their brand of chamber world fusion is intoxicating and Michael just played his heart out on this song, originally heard on his album, Ally.Ally.Hewett GroupHewett

Finally for today, we bring you Pino Forastiere. He’s an astounding finger-style player from Rome. He was on the show two years ago and returned this summer to play for us again. He’s Italian, so that means he’s expressive. Watching his eyebrows arch and his eyes pop open while he played, I thought he might be as astounded by what he was doing as I was. It’s mildly ironic and coincidental that his piece, Rifrazioni, translates as Refraction. We’re happy to have it as part of our Refractions: The Echoes Living Room Concerts Volume 12.

Tomorrow, four more from Refractions.

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