To the length and breadth of these fair Isles, you’ll find abandoned railway lines. Most if not all, condemned to memory and history by the infamous Beeching Reports of 1963 and 1965. The golden age of rail had long since passed in its place a new obsession came to be with the growing affordability, convenience and dependence offered by the motor car. Losses and the costs of upkeep were blamed for the closures, it seems timely that certain political conversations are talking of rolling back on the Beeching cuts and reclaiming these forgotten arteries. For now ‘the Quietened Journey’ reflects with both mourn and celebration on these derelict and decaying memorials to a lost age, over the years, their neglect has been sorrowed in a ghostly silence, these once pathways to progress and harmony where the very symbols of unity, connection and the triumph of engineering, the economy and the Empire, a testament to not only industrial advancement but to the architectural prowess and sculptured beauty of these isles with structures seamlessly forging a courtship with land and nature reflecting perfectly the lush genteel and the beautified contours of these green and brown pastures. Their eventual abandonment pre-empted the decline of the industrial age and with that, left communities adrift and neglect, left alone these landmarks became the prey of the vandals and the shadows slowly but surely submitting themselves to the receptive reclaiming arm of the same land and nature that decades before they had formed a symbiotic relationship.
And so, to ‘the Quietened Journey’, the last audiological posting for the year by the A Year in the Country resource. The assembled cast provide a perfect sonic journey documenting those empty spaces and decaying echoes of what once was, between the haunting and the nostalgic, all aspects, shadows and memories are uncovered, discovered and recalled anew with Pulselovers taking steer of the opening greeting. ‘Woodford Halse to Fenny Compton in five minutes’ is a pure and pristine Kraftwerkian misty, Handley and Co forge forward spirited upon a golden age voyage of discovery and wonder all the time powered by a coolly careering motorik motif dazzled in cheery celebration. Sproatly Smith’s ‘the 19.48 from Fawnley’ once emerging out of its haunting spectral haze, softly weaves a ghostly mystic merrie that’s accompanied by a bewitching gathering of siren sighs, the effect lulling and hypnotic and very much tailored with a Brit folk horror classicism. Beautifully daubed in baroque shadings, The Seance drop the elegant tug that is ‘Elm Grove Portal’ which graced with a eerie classsicist chamber coding, is spirited and gently steeled in the loss and ache of a faded romance. More like a farewell perhaps more so an epitaph, there’s something of the silent stately of OMD’s ‘Stanlow’ steeled within the epic expansive that is ‘the ghosts of saltzcraggie’ by Widow’s Weeds albeit as though filtered through the lens of Bowie’s ‘Low’, an ethereal hymnal whose stately pose, expression and sense of head bowed majesty is touched and traced with the gracefall of Dead Can Dance, Popol Vuh and Coil. Don’t know about you, but I always feel that the Heartwood Institute provide perfect backdrops when it comes to sounds nostalgic and abandoned, that sense that you’ve fallen through a crack in time and found yourself relocated back through time. Herewith ‘the solway viaduct’ a stepping through some mystic portal, here the eerie beauty of abandonment is brought vividly into focus as the ghostly song of the tracks and the spectral trains relive one last moment of remembrance. Up next, the disorientating ‘the beets at Wellington Bridge’ from Depatterning provides for a gloopy woozy with added Broadcast-y moment before going quietly minimal and glitch ticked as though someone has vacated the recording room for a crafty smoke, one for those well attuned to the more approachable moments from V/VM’s back catalogue. Ever the awkward and obtuse, Howlround opt for a spot of cut up power electronic shock treating for ‘thrown open wide’, fierce, fried and just a tad frayed, all manic blip skrees and delightfully deranged. ‘Nuff said. Silent Treasure on the other hand offer the despairing ‘A year in the country’ which downed in an aching solemn is momentarily rescued from its tearful trials by the ascending arrest of a brief but beautiful, joyful radiance before being swallowed again by the saddening shadows. There’s a haunting but altogether tenderly tamed tremble attaching to field lines cartographer’s ‘ghost of the wires’, another of those hazy spectrals though here sweetly harvested in an ethereal bathing of woozing ghost lights. Sparsely toned and threaded through with a slow but ominously chilling procession of meditative chimes, eerie shadow gloomed atmospherics and the crunch of pebble scratched footsteps, Dom Cooper and Zosia Sztykowsk lead the funeral march for the bleakly forged macabre of the ‘summonings’, let’s just say, seriously disquieting and leave it there. An album due, we believe just after the festivities or thereabouts for Castles in Space, Keith Seatman serves up ‘along the valley sidings’, something of a kalieidoscopic curio unless of course, these ears do deceive, trading tripping propulsive train tugs with swirling orbs of dissipating analogue whispers, a mind bending mosaiac unfolds disconnecting you from reality or what you at least, took for reality while bringing matters to rest, Grey Frequency with the quite enchanting ‘an empty platform’ which to a genteel key refrain, a memory lived in and paused shatters and a mellow murmur reflectively turns with a mournful gaze tear stained and torn by the cold harsh light of the day.