Marc Hellner’s name might not instantly sound familiar, but the Chicago-based artist has been an active member of audio-visual duo Pulseprogramming for some time and has also been found playing in Chicago’s experimental ensemble L’Altra. A self-confessed workaholic who ‘writes too much music for just one project’, Hellner is releasing his first solo effort with Marriages.
This album combines sumptuous acoustic instrumentation and electronics to provide a series of delicate backdrops for his sweet and sour pop songs. Evoking influences ranging from Talk Talk and Blue Nile to Arvo Pärt, Hellner remains very consistent and focussed all the way through, carving heart-felt melodies right at the heart of his intimate soundscapes. Yet, Marriages is far from being a solitary stroll. Hellner’s work is often the fruit of a collaborative effort, and this album is not exception. Featuring contributions from Tortoise percussionist John Herndon, recently heard alongside Rob Mazurek as part of Mandarin Movie, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, Town & Country double bassist Josh Abrams and Telefon Tel-Aviv’s Joshua Eustis and Charles Cooper, who by producing this record, appear to make a further step away from instrumental electronica toward song-based music.
The title track to Hellner’s recent EP, Asleep On The Wing, is featured here, yet Marriages evolves around a far wider music scope over its nine songs. Gentle acoustic and electric guitars glaze over vaporous electronic waves and discreet glitch and Lonberg-Holm melancholic cello, providing Hellner’s soft voice with some truly evocative ambiences. From the pop sensibilities of Handshaking, which opens this album, or Nonsense And Happiness to the ethereal Both Of Us or Asleep On The Wing and the reflective Last Chances or Orphea, which momentarily finds Hellner on Harold Bud territory, Marriages accumulates moods and hints of pop desolation of bands such as American Music Club or Red House Painters. Yet, the layers surrounding Hellner’s monotonous voice are incredibly rich and detailed, making this record a totally unique piece of work.
Away from his work with Pulseprogramming, Marc Hellner creates with Marriages a beautifully intimate and elegant record fuelled with raw emotions and served with subtle arrangements. Although Hellner is surrounded by friends all the way through, the mood remain intensely personal. Marriages shows Hellner as a truly gifted musician and songwriter. themilkfactory.