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Chris Watson, world renowned sound recordist, has a fascination with, in his own words, “putting a microphone where you can't put your ears”. On this, his fourth album for Touch and first in about eight years, he puts your ears in the past, with an album based around recordings from one of the last ever journeys of a train travelling from the west to east coast of Mexico, more th ...

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El Tren Fantasma by Chris Watson
2 reviews. Write a review for us »
9/10 Mike Staff review, 09 November 2011

Chris Watson, world renowned sound recordist, has a fascination with, in his own words, “putting a microphone where you can't put your ears”. On this, his fourth album for Touch and first in about eight years, he puts your ears in the past, with an album based around recordings from one of the last ever journeys of a train travelling from the west to east coast of Mexico, more than a decade after the last continuous coast-to-coast service ran there. As far as albums of field recordings go, this is a fast-moving and evocative collection of well-edited sounds, some of which I can place and some of which I can't. The ongoing theme is of course trains, starting and stopping and clattering along, but there's plenty more to distract you, with chatter and birdsong and the like. On the fourth track he's got some great cosmic ethereal drones, like he's stretched the sound of a train's horn, but I'm not sure if this has been achieved through sound processing or synths or if it's actual sounds he encountered on his travels. This one does seem like more of an arranged ambient piece based around the sound of a train...up until this point I was expecting this album just to be field recordings but this is very good! He's harnessed the relaxing clatter of train tracks and built a song around it. The arranged musical elements here make me wonder how much of the rest of the album has been tweaked and prodded into its final shape. This is a superbly edited and painstakingly constructed piece which, while it does contain musical moments, is more about the ambience and the shared experience of this train journey through the Mexican heat. A must for any field recording enthusiast for sure. If the Financial Times are to be believed (and I'm not 100% confident they are), the sounds incorporated into this disc include hummingbirds' wings and the boom of heat rising from the Copper Canyon. Hard to say without some kind of visual aid but I'd like to think that's true.


9/10 Acf Customer review,

this is beautiful stuff, a shame you can no longer make that journey. a nice companion piece to the Johnny Trunk east midlands buffet announcement disc!!


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