Acclaimed UK experimental ambient musician Dylan Hennerre joins his first label Phantom Limb for brand new EP Amtracks, a beautifully hypnotic wordless loveletter to a train journey through rural Pennsylvania.
Amtracks – named after the longstanding US train service Amtrak – is the story of a train journey taken by Henner some years ago. As a twenty year old, visiting Philadelphia for the first time, Henner also decided to take in Pittsburgh – a place his father had visited years earlier. Like his dad, Henner boarded Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian train service in Philadelphia to travel across the state. The Pennsylvanian traverses some of America’s most beautiful terrain, through lush forests and blissful pasture land, up a steep gradient to cross the Allegheny Mountains. Though years have passed, Henner recounts the journey with great affection. And as Henner’s usual starting points for writing and producing music are the field recordings taken on his day-job travels as a photographer’s assistant, the pandemic-enforced dearth of trips have inspired a new approach: memory-traveling.
The music found in Amtracks narrates the journey and the experience. The tracks are named after stations along the route, interlaced with recordings from it. “Exton” and “Harrisburg” skip and roll with rhythmic traintrack persistency; “Ardmore” slows to reverent silence as wondrous landscapes pass by; “Elizabethtown” garbles the miniscule foreground details as they are swallowed up by the barrelling iron carriage. Much of the EP centres on Henner’s preferred instrumentation – marimba, analogue synthesis and his now-trademark “digital choral” music – but here he also adds gamelan bells, piano and MIDI-woodwinds to tell a story of voyage, discovery, contemplation and awe.
“Humans have been traversing this route for millenia,” Henner writes. “The indigenous peoples of North America, including the Seneca and the Leni Lenape, had established the route long before Europeans did. A journey like this is a fascinating reminder of how tiny we are; of how huge and real nature is and how little it changes even when generations of mankind pass through it.”
Dylan Henner debuted on Phantom Limb as a then-unknown musician with 2019’s EP releases A Reason for Living and Stormbird Brother In The Dusk. 2020’s debut album The Invention of the Human was released by AD93 and rapturously received, enjoying a much-coveted spot on BBC 6Music’s Albums of the Year list. Tirelessly prolific, Henner has now released eight records (including Amtracks) and two mixtapes since 2019.
Dylan Henner joins soundtrack composer Pram of Dogs, acclaimed cellist / Jewish music historian Francsesca Ter-Berg and UK ambient musician Dau on Phantom Limb’s burgeoning Spirituals imprint, a new sub-label created to offer works of high grade, emotive ambient and experimental music from emerging artists from across the world.