Not a written story, El Tren Fantasma is, however, a narrative that stirred this black heart. Chris Watson, musician (Cabaret Voltaire) and professional sound recordist with the BBC, spent a month on the last trains to make the coast-to-coast trans-Mexican crossing before the service was discontinued. When he edited his recordings, he created something unique and very beautiful.
While trainspotters' souls will be thrilled by the authenticity of the sounds, not just of the trains, and their passings, but the towns, stations and quiet spaces across Mexico, others can be swept along on a sound narrative that subtly becomes, not music, but something very close to it. The two most musical tracks have been extended and put on vinyl, which I recommend highly. And no, it's not the dance mix.
By the time the final track, and final announcement of the end of the service comes, it arrives with a surge of emotion. It's poignant. It's the end of a story, of many stories. Evocative, impressionistic, finding the rhythms and music within not just the backbone of this narrative - el tren fantasma itself - but also in the spaces and places around the train.
This was a time and a place in Mexico; many times and places, in fact. And now it is no more. But Chris Watson has given us this story, a story in sound. (File next to KLF's classic, good-luck-finding-a-copy, horribly-named Chill Out.)
Beautiful and brilliant and much, much more than a bunch of train sounds. On Amazon and Touch Records.