Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Steel Guitar in My Soul

At first scroll this may not seem like the typical post here at the Mountain. Yeah, that's who you think it is down there. But trust me. Have I ever steered you wrong? (I have? Oh. Sorry.)

See, the thing is, I'm real big on road trips. Particularly the ones with no destination. Ones taking place in the deepest hours of the morning. In Autumn. The lore and mythology of the traveler and the hobo, I guess. Static on the radio. Or Elvis. In deserts. Or following a train.

The KLF are probably known as much for their hucksterism ("burning" a million dollars/pounds) as their music (Justified and Ancient, Doctorin' the Tardis, etc.). Truth is I've never much followed the group's antics or musical adventures. But back in the mid-90's a friend, trying to convince me that "electronica" (we called it techno when I was growing up) was the (new)wave of the future, would make me slews of ambient mix tapes. Nothing really convinced much, until I got a tape that featured the following KLF song.

On the album "Chill Out", the group strung together a host of found sounds (birds 'n' trains 'n' things), layered them together with minimal, minor-key synthesizers, a female chorus, and, most importantly, steel guitar. A road trip (choose yr trip) album.

This is the song I heard on the mix tape. It's actually the perfect song for us up here on the Mountain. The clack of the trains provides the rhythm, a gorgeous steel guitar keens sadly and slowly. And then,channeled through the static of AM, fading in and out like a lost transmission, is Elvis Presley all sadness and hurt. The barest of desert pieces, not intended for listening when the sun is out. The sound of a lost America.

The KLF: Elvis on the Radio, Steel Guitar in My Soul (mp3)

Continuing in a similar vein/theme is Clothesline Revival. Taking field recordings from, among other sources, Alan Lomax, adding beats and harmonica, steel guitar(again) and banjos, they create a modern folk album for the alt-jaded. The following features more clattering locomotion and an unidentified train caller from the '30's. It's more of the missing America, lost and wandering, where, and I paraphrase loosely here, a train can take you away from here, but a train won't bring you home.

Clothesline Revival: Calling Trains (mp3)

Return to the RAWK on Friday. Buy your train tickets from your local travel agent. Or, hell, if you can't afford it, hop a ride in the boxcar.


Loki said...

excellent, forgot all about Chill Out... a minor classic; pretty much everyone i know had a copy of this at one time or another... and there's another ambient album before they did the whole 'rave' thing... (is it called Space?) which sort of lead the way towards The Orb etc...

countrygrrl said...

I almost imagined me out there at 3.00am just about to drive into Barstow with this at full decibel headfuckeroo....thanks for the discovery...i am off to my local record store tomorrow to grab this little goodie if I can....ELVIS is still the KING

Satisfied '75 said...

new reader here...liking it, well done. I agree on road trips best when aimless and in the Fall

stricki said...

I loved their album White Room, and it was my first of a few minor forays into electronica (Tricky, Portishead, Massive Attack). But this is a stunning track - your selection is on the money as always... Cheers