The Inventors Of Aircraft: Where The Light Stops
Time Released Sound

Electronic-ambient recordings are often described as journeys of one kind or another, but the idea has an even more direct application in the case of Where The Light Stops, the third full-length collection under The Inventors of Aircraft name by London-based composer Phil Tomsett. In his own words, “The album was inspired by the atmospheres of old abandoned train stations in remote parts of England. Part reflection on the decline of the British Rail Network since privatization … and part imaginative speculation of what stories these now forgotten places might tell.” In addition to the nostalgiac visualizations provoked by track titles such as “Iron Pathways,” “A Route Through the Downs,” and “Strings and Pistons,” the twelve-track album merges field recordings with acoustic and electronic instrumentation in such a way that a melancholic portrait of train travel, which regrettably is regarded by many as both anachronistic and quaint in our light-speed era, emerges.

As time-worn as an old locomotive, “The One Hundred Year Piano” weaves the plunk of a warbly old piano in amongst crystalline electronic atmospheres that grow progressively more symphonic in nature as the piece develops (even if Tomsett appears to use synthetic means to simulate said symphonic sounds). He largely eschews direct programmatic reference to the subject matter, though there are moments, such as in the steam-like emissions that appear during “Never Forgotten (For Tom),” the train engine noises audible in “Strings and Pistons,” and stormy weather conditions that accompany a presumed train's aforementioned passage through the Downs, where a clear connection can be made.

All programmatic details aside, what impresses most about the recording is the evident care its creator has taken in shaping the material. Nothing feels half-finished, and one comes away from the project convinced that Tomsett has painstakingly considered every detail within the dozen pieces. There are times, such as in the elegiac title piece and the stirring hyman closer “And Now We Leave Our Seats,” when everything comes together magnificently. To its credit, Time Released Sound matches Tomsett's creative effort by presenting the material in customary lavish manner, with in this case each of the 100 CDs packaged in a hand-sewn, wallet-styled sleeve that includes a one-hundred-year-old stock certificate (from the, ahem, Time Released Sound Railways Ltd. company), antique gravures of the countryside, a tiny section of train track, and other treats (every purchaser receives by mail an antique steam train postcard, for example).

February 2013