. issue XXII : viii .

by barathron

. artist : strange mountain .
. album : cr-14: ghost rails .
. year : 2013 .
. label : carpi .
. grade : b plus .


The cover of CR-14: Ghost Rails is the perfect still for this sightless cinema: a railroad switch, hypertrophic skull bones (perhaps a keepsake of Victorian grotesquerie: the ‘skull’ has an expression — and eyeballs), and weird, honeycombed crepuscular rays in the cobwebs of drypointed crosshatch. These six tracks are loosely thematic (some seem to evoke the seaside, others the lawn, others, train-travel) but all use the same enchanting modus operandi (tape loops) to quaver out melting, laving ether that wafts through the landscapes of the mind. It’s a phonograph’s cry, the Edwardian last gasp: balmy, like springtime, and gracious, responsive, sincere, but warm in the slumber of mal du siècle. This self-conscious transience does not have to mean malaise — aren’t all ephemera characterized by the wave as they pass? — but this phantasmal world is sallow, too, dimming as the spring sun refracts in the sepia rain. The loops are nothing so much as an exercise in sustained misshapenness, slowly writhing with a preternatural tenderness (more internal than extended: those febrile vessels, crucibles, are in fact made of porcelain). And here there’s a sense of physical impact, of embrasure, and of temporal impact, of stalling for periscope précis, near and far and wide. The far-flung, featherweight richness of Ghost Rails is nearly overwhelming, especially when it cinches a concrete instance out of the fog: the ‘transmission’ sonics at the beginning of “Weird Clouds” keen desolately, the mother’s calls in “Drifting Landscape” (e.g. “Daisy!”) reprise as a reminder of the tension between the seeming persistence of our most static life times and the reality that one day it will have had been soon to be gone, and the magnanimous clock chime in “Aeterna.” Ghost Rails gives its listener pause, both stopping and blanketing ‘time’ across the sentimental landscapes of remembrance, history, and daydreams.

by Brittany Tracy