Blue and Grey – An Incomplete History of British Rail

Courier Sound

In the pantheon of oddly named musical tracks, this collection of railroad inspired electronica stands out. My earliest connection with railroad music looked to great lines like “…listen to the jingle, and the rumble, and the roar…” but there’s none of that here. Instead “HST Exeter to Newton Abbot” and “Last Class 302 Out of Chalkwell” look more to the nerdish British hobby of “Train Spotting,” a hobby where one notes the number of railroad engines one encounters around the UK. Instead of rail noises, this collection digs into a deep and spare electronic sound, livelier than Chill but less exciting than Electronica or Dance. Let’s analyze a track like “Class 37 Highland Sleeper 1992.” We start with low tones, the sounds of beginning motion. The passengers are seated, the motions starts. We are still in the yard but heading for the open line where we are the only transportation in the block. A waiter brings us tea and cookies; these are the perks of First-Class travel, and dates to an era where “First Class” meant something other than sitting with a bunch of yobbos. We sparkle forward, and the miles fly. Eventually we sleep. The soundtrack takes us into oblivion and lifts us back out, and we arrive fresh and ready to take on the world. Our train rolls to a stop. All these train journeys bring us back to the the pinnacle of ground transportation. Aircraft are noisy and bumpy and bit more dangerous; trains are smooth and genteel, at least in this musical realm. Here people ride the train not to get somewhere but to experience something magical. We’ve lost that today, and all around us seems soiled and mistreated. Here Edinburgh is just a phone call away, your meeting lives inside your cell phone, and you will attend your daughters dance recital. It’s a firm commit for this evening. THAT’S where this collection will take you.

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