01 November 2011

Chris Watson - el tren fantasma (2011, Touch)

Each Chris Watson release is a mystery, through which finally you realize you are using just a small part of your hearing, and so it is stimulating as you're taken as passenger and listener of his own quests and explorations.

He is not someone pretending to a career or to a reputation through his record, and his record are always a conjunction of both attraction and elaboration of soundscapes through the use of field recordings.  

On "El Tren Fantasma", he reinvents a train travel from West coast to East coast, from Los Mochis to Veracruz,  all through Mexico, a rail passenger service which no longer exists since more than a decade. 

Chris Watson was lucky to spend a month on board the train with some of the last passengers to travel this route before it stopped. Using these archive recording he recreated here, ten years after, a "ghost train" including the whole atmosphere of the area, through wildlife and human life, with the sound of rails and sometimes fragments of piano melody as interludes.

It starts with "La Anunciante" and the pure sounds of trains crossing a station, with announcements  and a deep reverb typical to such vast places, with an oneiric dimension as the whole trip is finally just a fantasy. Roosters singing, the sound of birds, temporary distorted distant sounds of a radio, a dog barks, the rising sound of motors, of machines and finally the deafening locomotive who enters the station, the unloading and loading and then we starts the trip, slowly entering its monotony until the dying notes of a vinyl playing a piano song.

Next we're crossing the rocky mountains area of the "Sierra Tarahumara" and Chris Watson just keeps the train as a distant presence, focusing mainly on the environment wildlife and sounds of wind, which are finally his trademarks. At "El Divisadero", the sound of trains are like a water stream, through a succession of small, more and more echoing waterfalls, with above in the sky, the menacing figure of a bird of prey

Irritating flies, and a powerful sun, around noon, on "Crucero La Joya", all you wish is a shelter, no sounds from the train, and suddenly and comforting short piano melody.

A railroad through tunnels and bridge, "Chihuahua", mechanic sounds from above the train, between two wagons. With "Aguascalientes", it's on the contrary like listening to a distant train coming closer and closer  and finally riding at full speed just in front of you with a deafening and shocking effect. 

On "Mexico D.F.", it's like he recorded trains inside of their network of tunnels. Cicadas and the quietness of rainforest on "El Tajin", a stroll around the archeological site, with later the sound of a distant train as a temporary background drone. Finally the scenic, almost orchestral arrival in "Veracruz" ends the journey.

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