Year of Release: 2006
Catalog Number: n/a
Total Time: 39:47:00
It starts with industrial sounds, in a faint reminder of Pink Floyd's "Welcome To The Machine" - but then there's a distant whistle and a spacey synth thread takes over with an eerie, high-tension non-melody, and you're reminded that the title to the record is Ghost Of A Train - and it's supposed to be spooky.
This is an all-instrumental album in which - as primary artist Phil McKenna puts it - "I sought to convey a loose theme or vibe of the long-gone steam age and the remnants it left behind." The titles provide the best clue to how each track contributes to the theme, and the song names and the music together build a paranormal vision of an old ghost train and the stories that might surround it. This could be the score to a yet unwritten Steven King movie. The title track is the standout piece, in which Jim Dunn's drumming evokes images of an old steam train coughing and spluttering its way across the plains to some undetermined spectral destination.
In most songs - and particularly in the title track and "The Mysterious Old Roundhouse" - the bass leads the music, played at an insistent high-energy pace and providing solid grounding for the otherwise ethereal and formless soundscapes developed by the flutes, Mellotrons, synthesizers and samples. McKenna often places more emphasis on mood than on melody, on sonics rather than on structure. Besides being a cool title, "Distant Wolves & A Brakeman's Song" is just that - a distant baying of wolves against a high-reverb backdrop of forest sounds, with deceptively simple tunes playing out in the foreground.
If you need structure in your music, and the basics such as melody and rhythm, you're in the wrong place. This is filmically inspired, a melodic wash of tones and moods and atmospheres, a series of textures and wide sonic landscapes. To the credit of The Owl Watches, you'll only need to apply a small amount of imagination to appreciate the ghost train theme.
Oh - and no Phil McKenna music would be complete without an owl hooting somewhere. Hint - track 5.
Coal And Dust Prelude (3:29) / Ghost Of A Train (6:52) / Distant Wolves And A Brakeman's Song (2:38) / The Mysterious Old Roundhouse (6:11) / Dust Remembers (7:48) / In Three Days (2:24) / Requiem For An Engineer (7:29) / Waiting For The Last Express (2:56)
Phil McKenna - electric 6 & 12-string guitars, slide guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, Mellotron, misc percussion, environmental sounds, treatments, drum programs (4 & 7)
Jim Dunn - drums (2)
Eric Aguiar - drums (5)
Dave Condra - Mellotron, flutes (4)
Tales From The Inflatable Forest (2002)
Ghost Of A Train (2006)
Genre: Progressive Rock