Ulrich Schnauss: Far Away Trains Passing By

By chance, I found myself listening to Domino's reissue of Ulrich Schnauss's debut Far Away Trains Passing By while walking through an Ontario park on a cool autumn afternoon, with fierce winds literally ripping the trees' dying leaves from their branches. As sometimes happens when the music inside one's head aligns perfectly with the world outside, the album's wistful, nostalgic character seamlessly mirrored the bittersweet yet irrefutable evidence of summer's passing. That impression isn't merely a matter of personal projection either, as the German electronic producer's song and album titles make clear, with one song even titled “Suddenly the Trees are Giving Way.”

No doubt many City Centre Offices' fans have long had Far Away Train Passing By gracing their collections—which begs the question why it took a domestic label more than four years to release it—but those same listeners will want this reissued copy too, given the inclusion of a second disc of non-album material (forty minutes added to the original's forty-three). Its six pieces aren't leftovers, either, with glistening cuts like the snappily rambunctious “Sunday Evening in Your Street” and “As If You've Never Been Away” equal in quality to the original's songs. Note, however, that, not all of the disc's material may sound new; the last two songs, for instance, appeared already on the Morr Music comp Blue Skied An' Clear (“Crazy for You,” Schnauss's jubilant Slowdive cover, and “Wherever You Are,” a similarly spirited, wide-screen epic).

Virtually the Platonic Form for instrumental melodic electronica, Far Away Trains Passing By is elegant, ethereal, uplifting, and breezy with material unfurling hypnotically when not rising to anthemic climaxes of shoegaze splendour. Sunkissed jewels like the panoramic “...Passing By,” the melancholic “Molfsee,” and the euphoric “Nobody's Home” are, simply put, as good as the genre gets. Those who missed out the first time ‘round may find themselves completely won over by the set's near-perfect blend of dreamy melodies and sparkling arrangements.

November 2005