When I Like Trains released ‘He Who Saw The Deep’ in 2010, it signalled a bold new direction for the band. Gone were the trademark post-rock principles that featured so prominently in their debut EP and its 2007 successor ‘Elegies To Lessons Learnt’, and in its place were steely cold swathes of layered synths. If anything it created an engaging if not immediately enjoyable new template for a band who were perhaps best known for their darker than dark imagery amidst an all conquering wall-of-sound.
What has remained consistent is the band’s approach to their craft, immersing themselves in the bleakest moments of human tragedy, brilliant musical narratives played out to some of history’s most affecting and obscure moments. Yet when I Like Trains decided to lose the guitars, they also sacrificed some of the emotional heft that their songs contained.
That aside, the unmistakable vocals of Dave Martin remain as gripping as ever on this new five-track EP, his world-weary tones spearheading his team into territory that suggests the band have regained some sense of the epic once again. The pulsing sirens on lead track ‘Beacons’ is, to the band’s credit, actually one of the weaker tracks here. The beautiful shimmer of ‘Rome’, as it ebbs and flows into its bass-heavy final 90 seconds is sheer bliss for the ears, as is the short but wintry blues of instrumental track ‘Easter Island’.
The last two tracks, ‘Jericho’ which is in part a reminder of Radiohead’s ‘Idioteque’ and ‘The Setting Sun’ blend seamlessly from one to the other. The latter’s hum of electronics is for once drowned out by the drums which lend the track a genuine sense of urgency not seen to any degree in either of their last two albums. ‘I will bring this city to it’s knees, I have the answers up my sleeve,’ Martin confesses, re-affirming the fact that, whilst their former dynamism is no longer as immediate nor as furiously loud as it once was, the band’s innate ability to create apocalyptic imagery remains firmly intact.