Throughout 2015, there were four Rail Cables compilations released. One for each season. This year there will only be one Rail Cables record released. Sharing the same format as its predecessors, the record features four musicians, who have all been asked to create music inspired by train travel. This release is much darker than any other in the Rail Cables series so far. The musicians featured on this compilation are from the more experimental end of the creative spectrum. It is a great pleasure to share it with you.
First on the record, we have Sam Grant’s ‘Chariots’. Grant has been a prolific mainstay in Newcastle’s busy music scene for many years. Starting Blank Studios in 2008, Sam has gone on to record and produce a number of influential records, including Richard Dawson's critically acclaimed 'Nothing Important', mastering 'Patina Pooling' – the ambitious collaboration between Zoviet*France and the Fossil Aerosol Mining Project – and has had a hand in the creation of many of the heaviest albums to have come out of the North East. (He is one of the founding members of the band Khunnnt and also plays guitar in the band Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs).
Despite this, there is very apparent fragility in ‘Chariots’. Grants piece incorporates violin, cello, electronics and voice, with the work built around the use of a large metal sheet. Played like an instrument and manipulated like an effect it makes for an ethereal sonic. The piece could be interpreted as a wide-eyed view of the emotions not only associated with travel, but with the shear force, power and speed of such a form of transportation. The generations of progress that have led to the creation of such a powerful, unforgiving machine.
Next up we have another Newcastle based sound artist: Joseph Curwen. Over the last couple of years the Joseph Curwen bandcamp page has been spewing forth collections of work at a crazily rapid rate. Up to 60 albums in 2 years, with releases being put out by cassette labels from all over the world. His works appear to be acting as a musical lifelong stream of consciousness, offering the listener insights to an overly active creative mind.
“HP Lovecraft inspired Post-Rave Hauntology Rituals and Radiophonic Occult Synth Horror Soundtracks” is how Curwen describes his own work on his Facebook page. The piece he has crafted for our collection is, somewhat surprisingly, the lightest work of all the music present on this selection. This would be the train journey being bathed in light, the track suddenly veering out of the dark forests, along the coast. The piece is pierced with wonderfully warm sub bass kicks that stutter along in the foreground, whilst a shimmering, reverb soaked melody line flows smoothly in the distant background. It is the first few minutes of this composition that offer the listener some respite from the darkness most apparent in this collection of music. The piece grows in intensity, leading us perfectly to our next contributor….
Our third musican is Daniel Rejmer. Rejmer is a very trusted sound engineer amongst the avant-garde. Ben Frost and Tim Hecker, two of the leading minds in electronic music, have both asked Rejmer personally to engineer their live shows. He has seen his music released through Lawrence English’s Room40 label and has had a hand in engineering and mixing a whole host of fantastic albums.
Rejmer’s piece is split into two parts. 'Faithful drunken adorers, mourn' and 'The radiant child'. They are sonically minimal, with both pieces containing melodies built up from a very stripped back sound pallet. Not that this impacts on the emotional force of the pieces. The first of the pieces is full of spiky, metallic, staccato note clusters that builds until overwhelmed by a sea of distorted noise. The second piece sounds like an organ, bubbling away full of body. Imagine sitting in a church, waiting for the service to begin, yet the organ player leaves everybody spellbound by such an emotional outpouring. This is Rejmer at his most reflective. A deeply thoughtful piece.
The record comes to a close with something very special. Jo Burzynska (Stanier Black-Five) is a sound artist, writer, curator based in Christchurch, New Zealand. She has been fascinated by the sound of trains from a very young age. As a child Burzynska’s grandfather used to sit her on his knee and they would listen to recordings of train sounds together. Burzynska has wrote about these young experiences and the influence it has had on her work on the inside of the gatefold cover on the vinyl version of this collection.
Her piece 'Alone with the Black Spirits' is a 20 minute exploration of the sounds of a moving train. Since the conception of Rail Cables I have been hoping a musician / sound artist would attempt this. It seems so perfect that the task has been undertaken by somebody who cares so much about the attention to detail in the sonic manipulation of the sound of our chosen form of transport. Reminiscent of the work of Tod Dockstader, it is fascinating wondering how much of Burzynska’s piece is created from field recordings and how much editing has been involved. At times the hypnotic rhythms seem too perfect to have naturally occurred from the train itself. Yet this just helps remind us what a surprisingly musical experience travelling by train can be.