Fingerprints are an interesting thing. They’re a hard thing to lose, and even harder to identify without the proper know-how. In a way, they’re symbolic of the influences that inspire musicians, and Railcars is no different.
Railcars’ latest release, an EP titled Cathedral With No Eyes, has the undeniable fingerprints of Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart in both the eccentric noise-rock instrumentation and the vocal shouts.
There’s good reason for this: Stewart produced Railcars’ debut 2008 single, Cities vs Submarines. And while he did not produced this follow up release one year later that early influence is everywhere in Aria Jalali’s music.
Noise Rock with Production Value
A while back I posted an exclusive off this album, an unmastered version of “Passion of St. Edmumd (Rebirth)”.
It’s easy to hear the progress that mastering brought forth.
“Passion of St. Edmumd (Rebirth)” is still highly saturated with heavy static and occasionally indecipherable vocals, but there’s a clean quality to the somewhat overproduced static that’s as infectious as the swine flu.
And a track like “Castles” is no different; in fact, it may even be more so:
Cathedral With No Eyes is a rarity — it’s an album that would be ideal from start to finish in a live setting. Raw with passion, overwhelming with overly disorienting music so loud it drowns out any errant thoughts.
In a way, Cathedral With No Eyes is an EP, chiming in at just under 20 minutes. On the other hand, it’s a glorified maxi-single with three feature tracks: “Castles”, “Passion Of St. Edmunds (Rebirth)” and the title track, “Cathedral With No Eyes”.
The rest is just highly sophisticated noise filler–songs that act as brilliant transitions without which this album would truly not be whole.
Railcars’ Religious Undertones
Jalali chooses what would otherwise be an unlikely character for an album ripe with religion: Edmund the Martyr. Here, though, it fits both in content (obviously) and in style.
St. Edmund is mostly known (Based on a limited amount of research and absolutely zero knowledge of traditional Western religion on behalf of the writer…thanks Wikipedia!) as a martyr through the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
…by tradition he met his death at an unidentified place known as Haegelisdun, after he refused the Danes’ demand that he renounce Christ: the Danes beat him, shot him with arrows and then beheaded him…
The lore of St. Edmund continues with fables that include a wolf.
One legend says a wolf aided searchers in finding the head.
According to one legend, his head was then thrown into the forest, but was found safe by searchers after following the cries of an ethereal wolf that was calling out in Latin, “Hic, Hic, Hic” – “Here, Here, Here”.Wikipedia
Another claims it was the head that spoke.
His severed head was thrown into the wood. As Edmund’s followers went seeking, calling out “Where are you, friend?” the head answered, “Here, here, here,” until at last they found it, clasped between a wolf’s paws, protected from other animals and uneaten.Wikipedia
The head and the wolf are depicted on the back of Cathedral With No Eyes.
The off-kilter story of the mysterious martyr seems suiting for a band like Railcars. The story of Edmund isn’t clear, and neither is the sometimes dubbed “shitgaze” of Railcars.
Yes, just like religion, this album is certainly not for everyone. But for those who can tolerate — or better yet enjoy — noise pop, it’s an absolute masterpiece.
The EP was released in 2009 as a CDr and 12″ EP on Stumparumper Records. FensePost freshened up this review with new imagery and minor literary edits in 2019.