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Chris Watson

El Tren Fantasma

(Touch; US: 25 Oct 2011; UK: 14 Nov 2011)

Chris Watson, an ace sound recordist and co-founder of Cabaret Voltaire, spent five weeks one decade ago on a dying train line making a coast to coast trip across Mexico. He had a sleeping car at the back and the driver let him into the cabin, he recorded, he listened, he paid attention to the boom-boom of the rails, the intellect of the engine, and now he has assembled this one-hour musique concrète compression of the trip. The human presence is minimal, the rhythm is the rhythm of the journey itself, constant movement, constant change, a pulsing dynamo of change. Daytime peeps from birds come early on, then nighttime insects near the end, first waking up the album then putting it to sleep, and finally there is the kraw-kraw of a graveyard crow, presaging this rail-line’s shutdown, which came soon afterwards. A thunderstorm arrives. Watson’s train is not an abstract object, it feels its way through a landscape of animals and elements. Brilliantly textured, brilliantly sensitive, unrepeatable by its very nature—this is a great example of a sound recordist’s art, like the uncanny soundtrack to a very solid dream.

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