Tue 14 Jul 2009
railcars- cathedral with no eyes (EP)
There’s nothing like the internet for bringing bands and fans closer together. Having heard what in my mind might have been every demo track for this EP throughout its making, I’m sure in actual fact there were many hundreds more draft mixes that never made it to myspace or my inbox. So precise in his production is Aria Jalali, the voice, brains and brawn of railcars, that he produces demo after demo of droney, excitable noise rock, only to shed that skin and replace it with a gleaming new one. Scales of distortion and fuzz are heaped onto the steaming ashes of old songs. Jalali recycles ideas, turning them over in his head like mulch until they’re just right. It’s his persistence and passion that puts paid to his talent; resulting in a cohesive, fresh and different approach to his established sound every time. Originally a swoon-pop behemoth, his almost jangly indie odes have given way to a more multi-faceted, layered depth of song writing. No longer do his songs put all their money on catchy hooks and cute lyrics, now lyrics are barely audible amongst machine banter, jamming drum machines and all manner of pedals battling to be heard. It’s a noisy commotion, but inside every song lives an idea, a myth, a hook and a chorus. I’ve always found Jalali’s work to be inspiring. Opener ‘Life of Saint Edmund (Ponds)’ burbles into life, like aliens conversing in a swamp. Seguing into the noisy, abrasive ‘Castles’ and then the following ‘Passion of Saint Edmund (Rebirth)’, there have been times where I’ve wondered if Railcars has gotten too self-indulgent with the noisiness and too cryptic with the repetitive, segmented song titles. Seeming all self-referential, they actually serve to tie into one another. While it’s a mammoth mission to attempt to listen to the lyrics, I find it best to focus on the beats and psychic drone, the eerie vocal melodies mimicking the guitars and the spluttering, psychotic drum machines. ‘Passion of Saint Edmund (miracles)’ is the centrepoint of the EP and caters for all of this. The over-six minute song is by far the longest, like a million songs in one it grows and grows, with impressive, live-sounding drumming taking over at one point in the psychedelic song. More guitar-oriented in parts, the title track is a happy surprise, at times toned down and slower, its echoey, snappy rhythm howls around a gutted forest of primitive guitar and ranting vocals. The hypnotic trance before the final farewell of sped up melodies and drums is the most otherworldly I’ve heard him. Then the bombastic bass kicks in again with the clap track and railcars’ classic sound returns again. While I can’t really get past the overtly noisy nature of the production path taken with Cathedral, I have such trust in Jalali’s song writing and musicianship that I know his judgement and ideas aren’t fleeting. He’s been working towards this sound for a long time and it’s a mind-fuck for fans of his older work but a challenging and exciting mind-fuck all the same. Railcars’ vision and DIY beauty continues to surprise and impress.