iLiKETRAiNS - Progress Reform
Reviewed by Andreas on 2nd July 2006
It all ends in a cacophony of guitars and that dark voice intoning a line about polar expeditions. Terra Nova is the opening track of Leeds band iLiKETRAiNS' debut EP. Throughout the record, slow and yearning songs that are built on big instrumental parts and "epic" structures play out against vocalist Dave Martin's Cohen/Cave-esque murmuring croons. Comparisons to such acts as Sigur Rós, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and other groups that are often placed within that ramshackle of a genre known as "post-rock" are easy to make, but iLiKETRAiNS bring something new to the table, not least vocals and lyrics that are actually about something.
At the hearts of these 7 songs lie stories of human fates. There's the shame felt by Scott when he realised Amundsen had beaten him to the South Pole, yet the continuous pride in the efforts of his men as they faced their cold, cold graves. In A Rook House for Bobby the listener is introduced to the somewhat controversial chess genius Bobby Fischer. A man arrested for violating UN sanctions against Yugoslavia when all he wanted to do was enjoy a game of chess, his story is told through a tragic, dramatic piece of music and does so magnificently before the clock ticks past the fifth minute. "They made mountains out of molehills" indeed. The eight-minute-long Stainless Steel spins a story of domestic deceit and murder, whilst The Accident seemingly describes a failed suicide that went horribly wrong. However, the key track would be The Beeching Report. In the 1960s, by appointment by the Macmillan government, Dr. Beeching was set to tackle the growing rail crisis - overmanning and general poor performance. His solution was to do everything on the rails like a business; if it didn't pay off, the branch would be shut down. iLiKETRAiNS' song is told from the point of view of a railway employee, accusing Dr. Beeching of destroying what the people built and the pride that came with such construction. With the chanted lines "reform, reform, you are taking apart what we built with our hands and our hearts", ..TRAiNS' atmospheric noise is excellently played out.
It is the special mood and themes that really set iLiKETRAiNS apart from their contemporaries. The fascination with the tragic fates of mankind makes for interesting listening, and combined with the excellent songwriting produces something quite special. How can you not be gripped by the ending of Terra Nova with its louder and louder guitars and trumpets? It is a cold hearted person that doesn't enjoy at least parts of the songs on this EP.
Throughout the record the swoon and dramatic fall of the songs are nothing but pleasing and touching in their own way. Whilst the songs generally stick to a formula, start slow and quiet only to end in massive crescendos, it is a formula that works so well it doesn't ever get boring. As the songs slowly slip by, their "glacial" qualities moves the heart, and the loud parts at the end of each song are simply brilliantly done. Turn it up loud. The only reason this is not a 10/10 is some muddling with the production, low volumes and such. Which is a shame. 'Progress Reform' is a special record, and one that displays iLiKETRAiNS quite unique talents and thoughts. Oh, how the future looks bright for these men from Leeds.
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