Few North American cities can cop to having a musical support system like Chicago's. Just ask Marc Hellner, a wandering solo artist who's made a career out of collaborating with the city's numerous fireflies. Formerly of L'Altra, and one of the founding members of the waylaid Pulseprogramming, Hellner's currently preparing for the release of his new full-length Marriages (Peacefrog), which–despite being a solo record–relies heavily on collaborations with members of bands like Tortoise and Telefon Tel Aviv. "There's a lot of musicians on it from the jazz scene around here," he says. "It's a little more composition-oriented. I wrote string arrangements, so it's much more live and string-oriented, but there's a lot of programming and processing as well. If you're familiar with the Pulse stuff, you'll hear a bit of that in it."
Indeed, Marriages might be the closest we get to a proper Pulseprogramming follow-up for quite some time. Although the Aesthetics label is releasing a remix record (with contributions from Nudge, Laub and Ghislain Poirer) this month, Hellner says the multimedia collective has been on hold for a couple of years now with no immediate reunion in sight. "We're not completely finished but we're not working together, and we haven't since [2003's] Tulsa For One Second," he says. "Everyone's doing their own thing. It was a collaborative group and my own work kind of took over."
In keeping with his contemporaries' herculean output levels, Hellner's got a number of other plates in the air. In addition to assembling a touring band for an imminent Marriages tour, he's recording with a local classical pianist, engineering a solo album for L'Altra's Lindsay Anderson and working on another solo record of contemporary classical string music. It's an energy and work ethic that the former Oregonian attributes to his current surroundings. "Oregon is really beautiful, but it's a bit sleepy and hard to get things done. In Chicago, there's a wide-ranging, hard-working array of musicians and talent and labels. It's really unique in that you can just ask people to play and they'll play. It's not competitive like other cities can be."