Thursday, December 1, 2005

RUNNING ON TIME

Posted on Thu, Dec 1, 2005 at 4:00 AM

Far Away Trains Passing By
Label: Domino
Rated: NONE
WorkNameSort: Far Away Trains Passing By

The roots of the compelling fireside resonance that layered Ulrich Schnauss' second album of ambient electronica, 2003's A Strangely Isolated Place, can be traced back four years, to when his debut, Far Away Trains Passing By, first saw daylight. As an indispensable entry alongside its successor, Trains is also shamelessly late to the prom: The second disc landed in U.S. stores first.

The bulk of Schnauss' compositions aren't like those coming out of his Berlin peers. The lush and oddly simplistic melody that supports opener "Knuddelmaus" also characterizes each track on his short debut. Subsequent numbers are closer to My Bloody Valentine: slow-to-medium tempos, synths that rush in from both channels and inevitable walls of surging sound. Each piece on Trains reliably builds to orchestral peaks, while Schnauss playfully peppers the trail with headphone-prescribed atmospherics. He adorns "Nobody's Home," for example, with just this formula.

Schnauss nears instrumental hip-hop on "Nobody's Home," with a crisp tracksuit drum break for intro purposes. It eventually wears the big-shirted Stone Roses shuffle that makes "A Letter From Home" such a standout on his follow-up LP, and "… Passing By" such a winner on this one. "Nobody's" morphs quietly from headspin fare to a swirling '90s Britpop beat, and on its way out it slims down to just the break and mere hints of the grandiose backdrop that came just moments before.

For this deluxe reissue, disc two's non-LP tracks are as enriching as those on Trains. From the frantic clicks of "Nothing Happens in June" to the reworking of Slowdive's "Crazy for You" from a 2002 Morr compilation, the Trains U.S. release identifies Schnauss as foremost in his art, even if it took a little while to get over here and prove it.

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