Although born in Scotland, Uno Prism (answers to Emma most of the time) is now settled in Manchester, a city which is once again threatening to become the centre of the musical universe. Uno Prism is essentially a one-man band – Emma Welsby – a classically-trained percussionist who was introduced to one of the less-heralded instruments in the field – the vibraphone. For those alien to the ways of the vibes, imagine a glockenspiel or xylophone but with a fuel injection (courtesy of motor-aided resonators in each tube, struck with mallets). The extra layer of sound these elongated tones give Uno Prism’s music is just one of the elements which make her work so utterly fascinating.
Her debut single, Into Place, plays down the vibraphone, though only to instead give way to thrillingly intoxicating electro/downtempo washes of colour, highlighting bone-rattling bass rhythms, sweeping cinematic strings and Emma’s own ethereal vocals. Very reminiscent of those old Late Night Tales compilation albums, it’s easy to lose track of time when listening to Uno Prism, the ever-morphing structure leading you down paths which, though unexpected, feel oddly familiar.
Uno Prism is music with a purpose, for both the artist and the listener. With a handful of tracks written by Emma in 2016 in the aftermath of a relationship break-up and at least one broken heart, she found that the music wasn’t just cathartic but was working, to use her own phrase, as a “decompression from life”. Uno Prism’s eclectic sound provides the carefully woven layers of sound which allow you to truly immerse yourself in a world which is free from everyday demands.
This has particularly been so for the artist, being a sufferer from Crohn’s disease, an incurable, debilitating condition. Emma has been in demand as a percussionist for many years, having played drums at festivals around Europe for Harley Davidson motorbikes to playing on a number one hit album. Equally adept at playing both vibraphone and marimba, Emma’s classical training as a percussionist marries with her passion for downtempo and jazz, bringing the sounds of all three alongside a sweeping, utterly engrossing experience which has garnered comparisons to The Cinematic Orchestra and Bonobo.
The name Uno Prism represents herself (Uno) and the prism of people around her that she needs to bridge the divide between the sonic soundscapes in her mind and the real world.