The sound of trains is especially soothing, so much so that decades ago one could find a multitude of LPs devoted to their tones. Trains have changed much since then ~ some may say they have lost their charm ~ but Felicity Mangan does much to revive their sonic status by embedding the trains in their surrounding sonic worlds.
In “Train Tracks,” one can hear the clanging bell, the sounding clock, the bustling passengers, and the local birds who have made the station their home. In the third minute, some unusual sounds emerge, passing like supersonic takeoffs, backed by local radio. This modern electronic whoosh is far from the chugga-chugga of pistons past.
“Locomotion” is a more overtly musical piece, in its early minutes alternating between silence and distorted sound. Little Eva would scarcely recognize such timbres. A slow elegance begins to creep in: musical notes that emulate the hope of connection, especially after so much time.
But there is more to trains than travel. Mangan traveled through Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway by rail and ferry this past June, enjoying the newfound freedom of lifted restrictions. Yet not everything went smoothly; there were delays and missed connections. Travel can be a lonely, frustrating endeavor, dulling the passenger’s ability to appreciate the sights and sounds. “Stations In Between” establishes a pulse early, recreating the initial excitement that turns to tedium. Four minutes in, the drums disappear, swept away by chimes; no longer stuck, the passenger is moving forward again. The station comes to life: another radio, a street musician, a bicycle, a cough ~ the last sound bearing a reminder of the last two years.
Are we safe yet? Or are we stranded between stations, our arrival perpetually delayed? Mangan’s recordings are compelling on the surface, and metaphorically rich below. (Richard Allen)