Every time I move, I always seem to find myself near the sounds of the rails. In Tustin, San Marcos, New Castle, Greenwood and now Everett, there has been the sound of trains to lull me to sleep. The sound of of a train upon the tracks, and the distant whistles blowing, can be both soothing and romantic. There is something about a mode of transportation that has changed very little in near 200 years. There is nothing like riding on a train, but even from far away, the sounds can make you feel that gentle rocking, hear the wheels clack from rail to rail and trick you into the illusion of actually going somewhere. Maybe this is why electronic artist Ulrich Schnauss named his debut album Far Away Trains Passing By.
Schnauss’ gentle electronic compositions create a similar feel to the sensation one gets when hearing those passing trains—a wistful, dreamy, longing feeling that is almost Pavlovian in nature. Schnauss’ second album, A Strangely Isolated Place is the one that got most of the press, being a combination of shoegazing rock and dense electronic soundscapes. His debut was much the same, concentrating on the beauty that can be created with technology, and Domino saw fit to reintroduce the world to its majesty. Even if you already own a copy of Far Away Trains Passing By, you’ll want to pick up this reissue for the bonus disc that accompanies the original work. The six bonus tracks double the amount of music from the original release, and are just as stunning, if not more, than the album proper.
You’d have to listen to the entire thing to get to the last three songs on the second disc, but the trip is worth it and the reward commensurate. “As If You’ve Never Been Away,” “Crazy for You” and “Wherever You Are” are the reward, the first being Schanuss’ best imitation of an electronic remix of a U2 b-side, the second is a cover of a Slowdive song, originally appearing on a tribute album, and the third, a Schnauss original that appeared, strangely enough, on the same tribute album. “As If You’ve Never Been Away” mimicks the high note guitar twang from “With or Without You” so well, that you’d swear you were listening to an obscure remix. By about two minutes into “Wherever You Are,” and the vocals kick in, you’d wonder the same with the word U2 replaced with Coldplay. The three songs together are a powerful combination and make for one of the best closings of an album I’ve heard. And these were songs that weren’t on the original release!
Aside from those three songs, the other nine on the reissue of Far Away Trains Passing By are wonderfully evocative of subconscious dreams and desires. Far too much electronic music is without soul or emotion, which is what I fear was said about rock music when it debuted, and every other genre for that matter except classical. Ulrich Schnauss puts emotion into every note he plays, and magically, letting the listener take a journey that is theirs alone. No two people will have the same feelings when listening to this CD, even though every note heard is exactly the same. Me, I think about the midnight trains that I hear through the bedroom window every night, waiting for that whistle to blow and send me into the land of dreams.
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