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El Tren Fantasma

November 14, 2011 | Format: MP3

$7.99
Also available in CD Format
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6:29
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5:23
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5:34
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4:58
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4:34
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5:44
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Format: Audio CD
I begin the journey of El Tren Fantasma at the station, as the announcer calls out the "last call for the ghost train". The train enters a dark tunnel and I drift away with a rhythmical beat of the wheels falling into the spaces between the old tracks. These sounds remind me of my childhood, when I traveled by train to visit my grandparents for the summer. I arrive in the Mexican village, where the birds chirp and the roosters crow, as the train screeches to a halt somewhere in the heart of the country between Pacific and Atlantic coasts. My ears are awake, picking up on the sounds of the trees talking to each other in the wind, butterflies dismissing the air with their conceded flapping, and the woodpecker's cryptic beat. The train moves on, and soon its rhythm turns into a soothing pulse, slowly hypnotizing me as I drift in and out of dream state.

Using archive and field recordings, Chris Watson recreates a passenger ride across the country on a line that no longer exists. It's been more than a decade since the last service operated by the Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (FNM). Watson spent a month on board one of the trains as a sound recordist working with a film crew documenting a BBC TV series on Great Railways Journeys. The atmospheres captured with sensitive microphones in the country reveal the environment at its most open, intimate and natural setting. An additional post-production of looping train samples, turns this mere field recording into a mesmerizing trip. This is more than just a sound portrait lifted off a television show. Watson composes a cinematic narrative bringing the listener (and the observer) into a setting unattainable alone.

"Take the ghost train from Los Mochis to Veracruz and travel cross country, coast to coast, Pacific to Atlantic.
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Format: Audio CD
Chris Watson has recorded, compiled, and composed a wonderful response to the birth of music concrète. Alluding to the trains and train stations in French composer Pierre Schaeffer's early tape compositions, Watson uses this same schema as a back drop in which he presents "concrete music" writ large. The entire world surrounding the experience of trains and urban rhythms are no longer relegated to small snippets of tape quotations, but live as they are in your ears. A completely organic sound world extending from Schaeffer's ideas.

My only problem is with the geographic framing of this project. It's presented as a journey from West to East, from the Pacific to the Atlantic. And yet Mexico doesn't make contact with the Atlantic Ocean. Veracruz, this record's final destination, is a city on the Gulf of Mexico, the body of water to the East of Mexico. By ignoring the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf region you're ignoring an entire cultural and historical region. I hope someone else see's this error.
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