Anyone who’s spent time in large train stations late at night or early in the morning, before the commuter rush and the busy timetables begin, will have noticed that they are quite unique sonic environments. Vast and cavernous, open at both ends, with a proliferation of hard surfaces, and heavy machinery coming and going, central stations play host to a range of interesting acoustic phenomena: resonating eddies of wind, reverberant chugging of diesel and electric engines, and echoing clatters and clamours of all sorts. Amsterdam’s central station is a prime example of such an environment, and Cinema Perdu’s latest album is both named after and created in response to it.
I’m not sure how many of the sounds on the album were derived from recordings made in the station, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was 100%. For all I know, even the melancholic string-like chords and pitched tones used here and there could have been created through some sort of filtering of recorded sound; at any rate, they sound natural, part of the whole, rather than like add-ons. The liner notes state that the intention was not to accurately document or recreate the sounds of the station as they are heard directly, and apart from a few vague snatches of tannoy announcements, obvious sonic signifiers are avoided. Yet the impression created is very much one of a large train station: the hissing and ringing, the rumble and clatter, the quiet screeches, the billowing wind, and the general hubbub all seem instantly familiar. Often this seems to have as much to do with how the sounds change as much as their qualities at any one moment. The way the quiet ambient gleams and glimmers of the opening track breathe slowly in an out, as if we were listening to the respiration of the station, is but one example of this.
Or perhaps that sense of familiarity stems from the music’s ability to evoke not only the sounds of a large central train station, but also the unique state of consciousness provoked by being in one. Regular visitors to such stations will know what I mean. There’s that sense of self-effacement, of merging with the environment; the intimate yet fleeting connections with hundreds of strangers; the endless waiting. On the album’s final track, rumble, ring, and clatter slowly build, before being overtaken by soft distortion. Hiss, clamour, and the billowing of wind create a slow-moving chaos. A glimmering chord slowly blossoms and sweeps the chaos away, like the rolling to a halt of the train that will take you home. Central train stations leave unique and indelible marks on the psyche, and “Amsterdam CS” traces those marks with skill and careful attentiveness.[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=909022375 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 tracklist=false artwork=small track=3742585179]