It is a thrill to present creative minds with such a simple brief. 'You are able to conjure audible / visual delights, please do so with the theme of train travel as your starting point of inspiration'. This instruction has, for just over 2 years, resulted in 6 compilations of train travel music. 24 different musicians / groups have offered us their musical take on what train travel means to them. For an activity so seemingly void of politics on the surface, the time spent on our chosen form of transport must be, for the individual, surely one of the times the mind will be at its most active for reflection. Simple movement without the individual moving a muscle. 2016, in the world of Rail Cables only bore 1 album. It was by far the darkest of the 5 compilations that there had been so far from this.....thing. In hindsight it makes perfect sense. There were reasons for the darkness, but with waves flowing in strange ways, as a whole, it all makes sense. We are indeed living in very strange times.
So it is with this new collection of music inspired by train travel that we chug on in to the unknown of 2017. It is a giddy collection featuring some of the most thoughtful audible art this stable has witnessed so far.
It begins with 3 tracks from Berlin based poet Sophie T, whose politically charged poetry uses her birth countries dark history with train travel as a starting point for her contributions. Here she tells us about the inspiration behind her piece 'To the East' :
'This poem is my approach to a dark history of "train travel“. However, it is up to the listener’s interpretation of the poem. I did some field recording at a station on Putlitzbrücke here in Berlin, where during the Nazi regime Jews were deported. Then the station Moabit functioned as a freight station. Today on this site a memorial has been put up to commemorate this atrocity. It is hard to digest and shall never be forgotten. Being in conflict if I - a German - am allowed to give the victims a voice, I have decided to do so.'
The sounds swelling and throbbing away in the background serve as the perfect canvass for Sophie T's vocals, which are cut up and placed on top of each other in layers. A Poem is read backwards whilst another recital is going forward somewhere else in the mix on the track 'On the Train', giving the impression of trains passing. Just one of the many interesting and experimental composing techniques Sophie T has incorporated into these thoughtful, emotional pieces.
Next we are treated to another experimental adventure into the world of words. Steven Hodson AKA NO FUN transports us to his daily commute on the trains....student rail cards and screaming kids.... Steven's use of lo-fi stripped back electronic drum sounds and heavily effected vocals results in a heady mix of claustrophobic yet frenetic energy.
On his second contribution to the compilation we seem to be again taking influence from Germany, but this time just musically. The track is a kraut-tinged ride full of DIY bedroom energy.
The Captain of the Psychedelic Corner spoke of becoming a steam train for his contributions to this album. On the track 'Brave Electricity' he took the necessary steps to setting a part of himself alight just enough to have to be 'guided' by human hands in a place of care, a train station. (A hospital).
The first part of this piece is the passengers eyes hungrily taking in the view from the windows. (Though it sounds a lot like a group of drunken people asking a man why he has set his own leg on fire).
You can hear the rhythms of a recorder brushing against the fabric of his clothes as he marches to this place of human care before energies bring the train to a stand still. (He falls on his nose, which you can hear towards the end of the track, The Captain can be heard exclaiming 'My fucking nose man').
This Winter selection offering wouldn't be complete without a detailed and inspired sonic journey into some heavy, atmospheric, cut up collage of train sounds. This comes to us from the mind of one Gareth JS Thomas, band mate to Steven NO FUN Hodson in punk band USA Nails and ambient composer in his own right. Thomas has so far unleashed experimental collections named Wandsworth Sports and Prime into the world, it is an honour to present two further explorations into sound here on this Rail Cables collection. The first of his pieces really does take the listener into the heart of the carriage of a moving train, rumbling and hissing all around you.... As the second track takes the same source sounds but places a stuttering Autechre style beat right over the top of the whole thing. As playful as it is abrasive, its the perfect way for this collection to ride out.
Until next time, thank you for listening.
SOPHIE T - - -
NO FUN - - -
CAPTAIN OF THE PSYCHEDELIC CORNER - - -
GARETH JS THOMAS - - -