… you know the feeling when you hear something that takes you on an aural journey that sounds strangely familiar, yet somewhat alien? As though you heard it in a dream1 or in some other life (if you can countenance that notion)? Or perhaps, it is an amalgam of previously heard songs, sounds, and ideas that evoke and/or create something recognizable.
Love On A Real Train is just that sort of recording. It’s a beautiful collaboration amongst family and friends with a keen ear for harmony and a wide musical palette – clever, well-orchestrated, joy-inducing ethno-musicology. The album/project is the “brainchild” of Joachim Cooder, the son of famed guitarist, soundtrack producer, and all world music-lover Ry Cooder. If you are having trouble placing the name, here is a hint, he helped make “Chan, Chan” famous. Still not sure? Okay, aside from his countless film credits, Ry Cooder’s most recent “claim to fame” was being the producer and a guitarist on The Buena Vista Social Club‘s eponymously titled album and the “solo follow-up” by Ibrahim Ferrer (a member of the BVSC).
Joachim assisted on The Buena Vista Social Club project and clearly his familiarity, appreciation and love for Global and non-Western musical traditions is evident on Love On A Real Train. Take the opening track “Space Shells“, the song blends West African and South Amerindian musical rhythms, evoking Ennio Morricone’s phenomenal soundtrack to The Mission (a small sample here), and adds a quasi-choral vocal track reminiscent of a minimalist composition by Steve Reich. Then, you have the dance-infused dream pop of “Pointed Into Zoom” with some gorgeous Far East Asian sounding chimes and Inara George‘s ethereal voice– I dare you not to smile while listening. Or, borrowing from a more modern tradition, “Being Alone” with Robert Frances feels as though it could easily be a collaboration between Sigur Ros (psst they have a new album!) and Bon Iver – with a subtle vocoder effect like on BI’s “Woods” from the Blood Bank EP. (Two equally otherworldly sounding musical groups.) Of all the tracks I adore, my favorite is easily “Strike Up Your Matches” sung by Matt Costa and built around a traditional Incan arrangement (with those amazing woodwinds) combined with rhythm of an older folk song from the British Isles.
One additional note about the record, the musicians on each track or not consistent throughout and, yet, there is no question that a singular (yet eclectic and diverse) aesthetic permeates the entire album. Also, this is definitely an album that makes excellent background and/or work meditation2 music, it’s calming, rich, and fluid, plus the vocals are used for their sonic attributes over their narrative value — for those in the crowd that can’t listen to vocals while working. Without any further comparisons or digressions, join Joachim and his friends on a trip into another distant, yet familiar realm.
If you like the general feel of this record, you might also enjoy the brilliant album released last year by King Creosote and Jon Hopkins’s Diamond Mine (listen here) that went under everyone’s radar (except for Bob Boilen’s).
Chicago Folks a reminder:
Do Division Fest this weekend featuring (among others) the Antlers (Sun), BBU (Fri), JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound (Fri), Craig Finn (Sat), and Besnard Lakes (Sat). (Bring sunscreen and water. It should be another hot one.)
1 I’ve been told it is impossible to (a) hear things in one’s dream and (b) see colors. I definitely think I’ve experienced both perhaps i was either confused by my own mind or delusional. Hmm…neither option is promising.
2 “Work Meditation” is essentially my term for a variation of “flow” or a Zen state of focus.