Posts Tagged ‘I LIke Trains’

Christopher Nosnibor

I like trains. Ironically, it was a lack of trains that almost prevented my making this show, as the largest national strike in the series yet meant there were none operating. David Martin and his band also likes trains, as he reminded us during one of his few brief exchanges with the audience during the set, going on to add “we support the action”. So would many in the audience, judging by the response.

While we’re waiting for things to get underway, we’re afforded the opportunity to appreciate the magnificent surroundings to a backdrop of minimal instrumental beats, before northern noise duo Polevaulter take to the stage assault our ears with a truly abrasive racket. Having given a platform to the emerging Benefits late last year, ILT have come up trumps with another killer support act this time. Complimentary but contrasting to the headliners, Polevaulter hit us with stark, crisp programmed drums and dirty live bass grind and feedback and shouty vocals. They’re a powerful hybrid of post-punk and industrial, and crank out a blinding wall of nihilism. As much Cabaret Voltaire and Factory Floor as Benefits or Sleaford Mods, they equally belong to the Leeds lineage of drum-machine driven post punk defined by the mutant noise of Age of Chance.

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Polevaulter

More minimal beats pave the way to an atmospheric intro as I Like Trains take to the stage and launch into a set that – unsurprisingly – is dominated by tracks from KOMPROMAT, their first album in eight years. There’s a palpable urgency to the performance, which launches with the triple salvo of ‘A Steady Hand’, ‘Desire is a Mess’, and ‘Dig In’.

They’re tight and look reinvigorated – and Guy Bannister still looks the same as he did back in 2005, switching between – and sometimes simultaneously playing -guitar and synths, integral to the rich, deep, and full-bodied sound, while the visuals make for a full 360-degree multisensory experience. They still kill the crescendos, too, and I’m reminded once again why I’ve been coming back to see this band for the last fifteen years: they really do put everything into their shows, and play hard, too.

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I Like Trains

They pack the songs in tight, with minimal chat or pause, and deliver ear-shredding bursts of noise from seemingly out of nowhere, and tonight, they’re as good as they’ve ever been. Having moved from a baritone croon to a more spoken style of vocal, David Martin actually pushes himself a lot harder in his delivery: there’s real passion behind every line, and – more irony – in having assimilated slogans and double speak clichés into the fabric of his lyrics, he’s truly found his own voice as a writer.

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I Like Trains

Mid-set, they play a rearranged version of ‘The Beaching Report’ from Progress Reform. With some screwdriver slide guitar work, it’s bleak and haunting, and simply had to be played. Reform, reform… What goes around comes around, history repeats, and cuts bite ever harder. The song’s relevance now brings a lump to the throat: today’s strikes aren’t purely about pay, but reforms that will have a significant impact on safety.

History and remembrance have run as themes through I Like Trains’ work since their very beginning, but tonight, observing the contrast between the refrain of ‘Terra Nova’, of Scott’s doomed arctic expedition – ‘More’s the shame / they will remember my name’ – and Boris Johnson’s gurning face against the slogan ‘God loves a winner’ during The Spectacle’ – which absolutely kicks – is a sobering experience.

Toward the end of the set, they finally concede to a proper delve into the back catalogue (although there are no songs from Elegies to Lessons Learnt – thanks to the early finish meaning we don’t get the ‘Spencer Percival’ encore of the night before) or The Deep), giving us ‘A Rook House for Bobby’ (dedicated to the memory of Debs, “perhaps the biggest I Like Trains fan”) and ‘Terra Nova’ back to back, both bringing ear-bleeding crescendos.

They close with an absolutely stonking extended rendition of ‘The Truth’, with a thudding, insistent bass groove chopping a deep furrow against a backdrop of warped images of Liz Truss. The climactic thrust which sees David nailing the truth of the truth and appropriating my own stage performance style in the process (and who wouldn’t want to, right?), tossing screwed cards into the crowd and flipping the written cues in all directions… it feels like a performative metaphor, whereby the truth is discarded wantonly, recklessly, with no regard, before he finally intimates ‘The truth will trickle down… I am totally out of my depth’. He’s never been more intense than this, and I Like Trains have never felt more vital.

15th September 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

The evolution of I Like Trains continues with their first new output since 2020’s Kompromat, which marked a seismic shift both sonically and lyrically. Not their first, either, since they made a giant leap after Elegies for Lessons Learnt, after which they made the change from being iLiKETRAiNS to I Like Trains and towards a more conventional dark alternative rock style. But Kompromat saw them ditch the last vestiges of jangling echoed guitar and baritone crooning in favour of politically-charged angularity, that saw them become more aligned with Leeds forebears Gang of Four than anything remotely tied to their post-rock roots. It was unexpected, but it really suited them.

One thing I have immense respect for I Like Trains for is their self-awareness, and knowing when something has run its course. Elegies took the historical events recounted against brain-melting crescendos format established on Progress Reform to its absolute limit with the nine-minute ‘Spencer Percival’. They recognised that, and moved on. Kompromat was a one-off, and ‘The Spectacle’ bookends that particular spell.

As they write, “‘The Spectacle’ is a standalone single. Part of the KOMPROMAT world, but not quite closure. There’s more where Boris came from.”

We know this to be true: Johnson’s replacement continues his trajectory down towards the lowest common denominator soundbites without substance. Only whereas Johnson’s ideology was largely built around what favoured Johnson, Truss seems blindly fixated on hardline Conservatism, even if it bankrupts the country. And ironically, having dismissed Scotland’s first minister as an ‘attention seeker’, the new Prime Minister’s penchant for a cheesy photo op seems to only accentuate her obliviousness to pretty much everything. As such, The Spectacle continues, and the refrain of ‘Keep it light and repeat it often’ continues to resonate beyond Boris.

But ‘The Spectacle’ is a transition that unfurls before your eyes / ears and is one of those songs that ends in a completely different place from where it started without it being clear where the transition took place. It’s a disorientating, time-bending experience, smoke and mirrors and spin in action, and a brilliant piece of songwriting.

It starts out with the choppy guitars and largely spoken vocal style of Kompromat, which finds David Martin stomping in the steps of not only Mark E Smith, but closer to home, James Smith of Post War Glamour Girls / Yard Act – a style which suits him remarkably well – before the song takes off in a different and unexpected direction around halfway through, when he tosses the mantra and launches into a slab of lyrical critique over guitars that slow at first, before building in crashing sheets of noise and a mangled solo breaks out, and drags the song to a taut finish. They pack a lot of action into just shy of four and a half minutes, and they’re unashamed in pointing out that the single – like so many singles – is a promotional device, here with the purpose of enticing punters to the upcoming merch-flogging opportunity which is their forthcoming tour.

We’re all trapped in the wheels of capitalism, but ILT show that they can simultaneously play and subvert it – while at the same time making great music. ‘The Spectacle’ is as sharp as a pin, and ILT continue to thrive as strong as any virus in a post-pandemic world.

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Following the release of their hard-hitting ‘KOMPROMAT’ album in late 2020 via Schubert Music’s recently founded Atlantic Curve label, Leeds-based trailblazers I LIKE TRAINS have shared a series of deepfake remixes of the album’s lead single ‘The Truth’.

Formed in 2004, I LIKE TRAINS is David Martin (vocals/guitar), Alistair Bowis (bass), Guy Bannister (guitar/synths), Simon Fogal (drums) and Ian Jarrold (guitar). For this experiment, the band reunited with long-time visual collaborator Michael Connolly to create a series of ‘deepfake remixes’ for ‘The Truth’.

"As our album KOMPROMAT deals with themes of information and how data misuse has led to this nightmarish present, it feels apt to see how artificial intelligence would rework our music. It seems to think we should be more melodic, throw in a few key changes and also consider using panpipes. The future of music is pretty nightmarish too it seems," says David Martin.

“The audio in these three vignettes is an AI model trying to continue ‘The Truth’, generated using the OpenAI Jukebox. I revisited my auto edit system from ‘The Truth’ & ‘Dig In’ promo videos and poured on more nightmare fuel," says Michael Connolly.

A resonant and timely rally against the powers-that-be, this ominous offering is the latest leg of the expository musical quest, following singles ‘Dig In’ and ‘A Steady Hand’, both of which also offer videos by Michael Connolly – congnizant reactions to a world that has changed beyond all recognition.

Check ‘The Truth (Angels Are Coming AI Mix)’ here:

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Christopher Nosnibor

I Like Trains’ emergence from hibernation may be coinciding with that of the nation, and while it’s perhaps to an extent coincidental, one feels that perhaps it largely isn’t. Their latest reinvention has seemingly come out of nowhere, and if their shift from genre-leading purveyors of songs based on historical events, formed as slabs of tremulous post-rock with shattering crescendos, to something rather less dramatic and more direct came by a certain sense of transition, this is a true bolt from the blue.

Crashing in from nowhere with the stark, synth-heavy and highly-political ‘Truth’ to announce the imminence of new album, Kompromat after a hiatus that had looked dangerously like becoming permanent, it was immediately apparent that I Like Trains haven’t so much evolved as metamorphosised.

The band describe ‘Dig In’ as being ‘probably as lean and direct as we’ve ever been’ and continue: ‘There’s plenty to be angry about at the moment, and this is a pure distillation of that. It’s aimed mostly at the campaign managers and ‘special advisors’ who manoeuvre their people into positions of power with little or no regard for the rules. Never back down. Never apologise. Show no signs of weakness.’

‘Dig In’ has a real attack to it, an urgency that’s new. Over a choppy guitar that’s more Gang of Four than anything even vaguely post-rock, and which is welded to an elastic rhythm section with a driving bass, David Martin growls political agitation. No longer jumbling through his beard, there’s even a hint of Richard Butler in the early years of the Psychedelic Furs in the delivery, and perhaps even hints of Post war Glamour Girls, he casts an elevated eye over the world as is, and it’s sharp incisive.

Old ILiKETRAiNS were formidable. Middle I Like Trains were ace. New I Like Trains, with their newfound edge, right now, feel re-energised and essential.

Gizeh Records – GZH67 – 1st April 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Last Harbour aren’t exactly renowned for their prolific output. They may have released six albums, but it’s taken the best part of 17 years, and the gap between the last two albums was a full four years. So, for Paler Cities to follow less than a year after their last long player, the immense Caul, feels like a real step-up in terms of momentum. The 7” single is accompanied by a brace of digital-only tracks, and the quality of the material is both consistent and superlative.

They’ve struck a rich seam of gloomy post-punk folk music, and ‘Paler Cities’ indicates a further evolution, showcasing a new-found stripped back approach to the compositions. A tense, chorus-heavy guitar provides a suitably stark backdrop to K Craig’s intonations of mournful longing delivered in his signature cavernous baritone.

Flipside ‘The Curved Road’ is a brooding, introspective effort which goes deep inside while evoking dark late-night imagery and conjuring psychological drama. The stealthy, almost subterranean, wandering bassline really makes it.

The digital tracks are of an equal calibre: ‘A Better Man’ is beautifully lugubrious and understated, dripping with minor-key violin, and with its chiming guitars and sad-sounding string arrangements, the darkly dreamy ‘Witness’, with its sweeping vistas, displays post-rock tendencies (or, more specifically, it echoes I Like Trains at their most melancholy).

There’s an overarching theatricality to the four tracks on offer here, and while they’re downtempo and downbeat, the aching beauty that lies in their shadowy depths is utterly compelling.

 

Last Harbour - Paler

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