Review: Mortal Morning – The Lost Line

Mortal Morning - The Lost LineThe other release that comes to mind here is Chris Watson’s El Tren Fantasma, which documents the journey of the Mexican “Ghost Train” from Los Mochis to Veracruz; an album that unfolds from the expectation set by its cover image, with galloping metal and jets of steam carving up a landscape of dry, balding earth. The Lost Line presents a very different evocation of its subject: the train as an independent being of steel and myth, looming as a silhouette in plain sight and a mesh of hidden voices and disturbing narratives stowed in its furnace; not a vessel of transit but a beast of its own grim intentions, gliding toward a destination that lays far beyond the end of the line.

I hear only fragments of the familiar – rhythms that resemble the endless clack over the tracks, hideous siren songs of brakes screaming into the rails – but these are slotted into a frame of industrial apocalypse lurch, clouds of rusted friction and brass band infernos. Steam comes in hard, steady bursts like a mechanical bull, while the body of whirrs and low frequency groans is bent into everything from volcanic orchestra crescendo to bright, bouncy hops of jazz; I feel the train as an essence, a gas perhaps; as a taste of flaked paint and metal, of transitory ritual and shadows gliding across a floodlit winter night. Gardiner treats the train as a molecular substance, crafting new objects from within which the engine speaks in strange, semi-coherent tongue.