Blitch Bango

Strange Trains Song Notes

The songs for Strange Trains began from an idea to strip down the sound to four musicians and acoustic guitars, much like Podcast Music, keeping more traditional song structures with lyrics. Many of the songs were originally recorded as two acoustic guitars, bass, and drums played with brushes, some songs featuring three or four acoustic guitars, but representing no more than four individual parts at a time (i.e. no more than four musicians could handle in a live-ish fashion). Some of the songs date back several years, some which were not formally recorded, and some which did not fit the feel of earlier recordings.

Once a handful of songs were recorded in this manner, the idea arose about how these songs would sound if passed to a more urban producer, and what would he or she do with them. A few songs were experimented with in this manner, and once the experiments turned out appealing, the band abandoned the idea of limiting itself to brushed drums and hand percussion, and also the idea of limiting to four musical parts. However, the decision to record only with acoustic guitars remained.

From that point, a few of the songs were dropped (not adapting well to the new direction, or simply not fitting the overall feel), and a few new songs were written. Some were built upon further after adding modern percussive parts, a few were kept close to the original idea and elaborated upon in only minor ways, or not at all.

As part of the "urbanization," a conscious decision was made to reuse certain elements across songs such as samples of claps, tambourines, and other percussion, not only to enhance the cohesiveness of the collection, but also to spark new creative thought. In some cases, these elements were added, new elements built on them, and original elements dropped.

Additionally, once freed from the “quartet” restriction, the decision was made to experiment with the sounds and capabilities of the acoustic guitar, much like Space Time explored the sonic possibilities of the electric guitar, though Strange Trains does so with the acoustic on a smaller scale. Thus, the idea of keeping the recording limited to acoustic guitars, bass, and percussion still does just that. No electric guitars or keyboard synths are used in the recording.

A list of the specifics for each song is included below.

* "Where Does the Time Go" - This song came from an old-ish demo, and is one of the first to be recorded. It started following the basic formula of two acoustic guitars, bass, and acoustic percussion, and was one of the first to be experimented with using the "urban producer" idea. The song is pretty much kept to the original recording, with only the percussion changed to fit a more modern feel.

* "Heaven's Fine" - This is one of the oldest songs of the bunch (a demo being recorded prior to Modern Christmas CLassics in Various Styles), one of the first to be recorded for this release, and one of the first to be urbanized. And like the previous song, the recording of the guitars and bass were kept intact with only the percussion being changed during the "urbanization."

* "How Low Can You Go" - Another song similar to the previously mentioned, and again, kept to the original vision except for the change in percussive elements. This song is similar to "Heaven's Fine" in that a recording of it was attempted prior to recording Modern Christmas Classics in Various Styles, using electric guitars, a harpsichord, and flute parts. Though the majority of the ideas and feel of the original demo recording were kept, none of the original recorded demo tracks were.

* "I Listen to the Rain" - This song is one of the first to be written specifically for this release prior to the "urbanization" decision (though the guitar part came from a backlog of song ideas). Originally taking form as a solo acoustic guitar with vocals and the underlying airy reverb guitar, the urban beats were added, and the song was finally fleshed out with a melodic bass part.

* "Restless Night" - The concept of this song started out as a four piece instrumental: three acoustic guitars and percussion. The original idea was the Strange Trains recording would carry four such songs written specifically for this release interspersed with the non-instrumentals, starting with one guitar and three percussion parts, and swapping guitar parts for percussion parts until the idea culminated in a four guitar, no percussion composition. Three songs from this idea were recorded (this, a two guitar, two percussion tune, and a one guitar, three percussion song). This one is kept nearly true to its original form, with the exception of having an airy reverb guitar part added.

* "Pale and Thin" - This song started life as the aforementioned one guitar, three percussion instrumental piece. However, once the decision was made to urbanize the percussion, lyrics were written and a vocal and bass part added.

* "Temporary Occurrence" - Starting with a guitar part from the idea backlog mentioned previously, and new lyrics for this release, this song was pretty much kept in its original form with no additional urban treatments.

* "So Easy" - Like "Temporary Occurrence" the composition started with a guitar part pulled from the idea backlog mentioned previously, with new lyrics added for this release. This was the first song to be written specifically for this release after the urbanization decision was made.

* "Mallory Square" - Another song with its genesis from the idea backlog, the lyrics were again written specifically for this release. The intention for this song was always that it would remain a single acoustic guitar part with vocal.

* "I Don't Believe You Anymore" - A demo of this song was created prior to Modern Christmas Classics in Various Styles and reconstituted (with most parts re-recorded) and intended to be released as part of You Said She Said, but was cut as it did not fit the feel of that recording. In this version, the YSSS picked acoustic guitar part was kept, along with the vocal parts. All other instruments (mainly electric guitar, vibraphone, and backing violins) were scrapped or re-recorded with acoustic guitars.

* "Real Love" - This song is a bit of an oddball of the bunch, being a composition previously recorded by The 'Tones. In its original form, it is a loud, abrasive, yet droning punk song written and performed in the vein of Husker Du. The decision to try it as a slow-burning acoustic song was made about the time the urbanization idea came up. Many of the musical ideas and elements from the original version remain, despite being slowed, the vocal sung an octave lower, and the percussion being played in half time. A few new musical elements were added.

* "Wednesday, 6 AM" - This song began as the two guitar, two percussion instrumental previously mentioned, and morphed into its present version after adding the airy reverb guitar and bongos. The original percussion (a sparse guiro keeping tempo) was removed. The song was consciously kept as an instrumental.

* "You're Gone" - This is the fourth song to be written specifically for this release after urbanization. It was created from scratch using the bass-ackwards process of fitting music to the lyrics (a process not normally followed - lyrics are generally written after music or specifically fitted to music). This tune was written to replace a song that, though it adapted well to the urbanization process, did not fit the feel of the rest of the music.

* "She Thinks of Water" - This is the third song to be written specifically for this release after urbanization. It was created from scratch, again following the reverse writing process of fitting music to lyrics. It was written to replace a song that, though it adapted well to the urbanization process and fit the feel of the rest of the music, no words were ultimately written for the song, and didn't function well as an instrumental.

* "You Try" - This was the second song written specifically for this release (from a backlog song idea) after the decision was made to urbanize the percussion. The song replaces a tune that was planned for the release with a similar history to the first three songs, but was unable to be adapted to the "urban acoustic" feel. Though not specifically written as a replacement for the dropped song, it eventually filled that role.

* “I’ll Live and Die With You” - This song is unique in the collection in that it started out as one of the older songs from the backlog (similar to the second in this list), and originally had a completely different set of lyrics. The original lyrics never seemed to fit the song, so an entirely new set of lyrics, with a different melody, was written for the music. After urbanization, the song didn’t fit the feel of the rest of the songs, and was dropped. However, there was still a perceived value in the (second) lyrics, so an entirely new piece of music was written for the words. Hence, the original lyrics and original music of the song were both changed. It was the last piece of music written and recorded for the collection.