RELYCS – Songs for Abandoned Tube Stations (Pethau Garw)

C-30 / DL

Due out: 30 September 2013

Score: 8 / 10

A fascinating concept, Songs for Abandoned Tube Stations is “inspired by the sights, sounds and ghosts of the dozens of closed, unused, or only-travelled-through-at-speed Underground tube stations beneath the streets of London.” Of course a fascinating concept does not necessarily make for great music on it’s own, so have RELYCS pulled it off? Read on to find out…

Songs for Abandoned Tube Stations is not a typical EP. Think of it more as a piece of art. RELYCS is a new collaborative effort from three of the most innovative DIY artists in the UK; Ashley Cooke (Pulco), Adam Leonard (The Message Tapes), and Stephen McLeod Blythe (Unexpected Bowtie). The project is an homage, as the title implies, to three of the many abandoned tube stations in London. Each artist contributed one song, all instrumental, that paint an audio narrative for grand structures that now lie dormant like sleeping giants. Trains carry people past them on a daily basis, and you can still catch a glimpse, but these are forgotten places from a near-forgotten time.

The Songs for Abandoned Tube Stations EP is an artisanal package, limited to 30 copies for the initial run. The kit includes a C-30 cassette, hand numbered photos of each of the three tube stations, a broadside with credits, and a code to download a digital copy of the EP. It remains unclear as to whether this material will later be available in straight digital form. Let’s hope it will be – and soon.  This is a well conceived and presented art project that combines photos, music, and history, but the music is very solid in its own right.

The music created by Cooke, Leonard, and Blythe, in their respective pieces, provides a sonic groove describing the various states of grandeur and neglect of these former hives for commuters. Each piece (you could call them songs or movements) is named for a particular abandoned station and each is stylistically very different, reflecting different time periods and different states of decay.

The first “movement” (which seems an appropriate term) on Songs for Abandoned Tube Stations, Aldwych Branch Line, was composed and performed by Ashley Cooke (Pulco). All of the pieces have an underlying rhythm, like a moving subway car clicking and clacking along. Aldwych Branch Line pulses to a very digital beat, tapping out like a steady piece of Morse code. The guitars and keyboards provide a 4-chord Prog-soundscape, reflecting the former grandeur of the station. It is the sound of a vision of futurism from a past time. Pulco’s trademark flourishes of electronica and ambient sounds are disruptive and punctuate the steady flow of the song, like the sudden clanging of metal & steel wheels on iron track.

Lord’s Station by Adam Leonard (The Message Tapes) is a near fugue-like  composition for keyboards.  The introduction consists of static and hammering, the sound of something broken. The organ / synth fades in and fills the volume of the imagined space, the station has been abandoned and is nothing more than a dark, grey, cavern. The organ drips in reverb and echo. Ambient sounds, echoed voices,  and percussion fill the background, but are muted. This is a haunted place. The trains are passing now- and no longer stopping. Lord’s Station is a soundtrack for faded majesty, a place in decline, a place soon to be forgotten.

Stephen McLeod Blythe (Unexpected Bowtie) provides the closing movement in on Songs for Abandoned Tube Stations in Down Street. The final piece brings us into the modern age. As commuters shuttle along on their morning commute, with noses buried in iPhones and Gameboys, the Abandoned Tube Stations of London flicker by just like McLeod Blythe’s digital chip tune. This is music for movement, but a robotic, Orwellian, movement for commuters moving back and forth between two points on a daily basis. Always passing the abandoned stations but never looking up to notice them. Flickering by. Unnoticed.

The concept behind Songs for Abandoned Tube Stations blends history and culture  with music but without the distraction of a lecture. The music from all three artists is rich, diverse, and well produced.  The multi-media presentation of this EP is well crafted, and represents the best aspects of DIY; self produced tracks, hand-numbered post-cards, and C-30 media. Songs for Abandoned Tube Stations was made by hand and heart and with a purpose.

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You can order Songs for Abandoned Tube Stations here: pethaugarw.tumblr.com.

Ashley Cooke (Pulco): pulcomusic.comFacebook.

Adam Leonard (Message Tapes): themessagetapes.com

Stephen McLeod Blythe (Unexpected Bowtie): unexpectedbowtie.com

All words by Nat Lyon. More of Nat’s work on Louder Than War can be found in his author’s archive. Nat tweets as @NatLyon.

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