By August Edwards
The ambient, psychedelic-pop album Topology by Train Conductor is rooted in introspection with fireworklike flair. The album is available for preorder here and will be released in October; you can check out their music here.
While I take album names into consideration, I don’t usually place too much weight on them. Sometimes the names can be sentimental to the artists themselves, sometimes they’re conceptual, sometimes they’re just plain fun—I don’t hold an ill-fitting title against an album because I think it still serves a deliberate purpose. That being said, Topology is an example of a name so fitting that it makes the listening experience that much richer for me.
The album leads us through the territory within ourselves. It’s uncomfortable, sad, but sometimes joyous and pensive. Topology, when listened to in the right mindset, is an active, deeply meditative album. That is so say, Train Conductor creates a space for self-examination, without forcing the matter or making the listener think too deeply about it. The album focuses on itself, so the listener can do the same.
Beginning with acoustic-like, cyclic chord progressions and moving into an transfixing soundscape, as the album progresses it builds into a psychedelia that could be comfortable for anyone who was previously repelled from the genre.
The opening track “Flat Land” functions as an introduction with a relaxed guitar progression and sinuous background. The song burns away fast, calling into question the overall stamina of this album due to its hasty fizzle.
However, the following track “Solace” debunks the notion of lack of stamina. The song is sweet with a somber tinge of dissonance. The production feels tight—the dense guitar in background contrasts effectively with the windchime vocals. “Finding solace in everything / Can bring you home:” I’m always intrigued by lyrics that allude to the idea of a home. It can be an impactful and unifying theme without too much bulk, if used right. “Solace” capitalizes on the concreteness of the concept.
The deep, tuba-like synthesizers of “Sequence” achieve the desired effect of trudging along; it’s almost monotonous, as far as the scene that’s being painted. “Moving can inspire change,” Byrne croons. To exemplify this theme of action, the next song on the album, “Let It All Fade,” uses a power pop effect to keep the energy that has been built.
“Clear Blue” is a song that can transport you through time, which I suppose is a great strength of psychedelic music. The delayed, sort of echo effects simulate a festive sort of gathering; it feels social, like the music is there for you. In a similar, daydreamy vain, “There She Goes” might be best played while you or someone you love is leaving, staring through a rain-streaked train window. The track revisits the somber notes touched before, further demonstrating the emotional flux of daily activity.
The sonorous landscape of “Sound of the City,” literally emulating city sounds such as train whistles and construction machinery, spins an internal buzzing. This makes me conceptualize my own inner vibrations in a very uncomfortable way. “Liquid Lake” picks up the mood with a glittering electricity.
Topology is a series of rivulets braided into an affecting experience. It’s best listened to with headphones and a clear mind; it could help with emotions you’re wanting to process or just letting some natural feelings surface. The album will stick with me; I appreciate it more each time I give it another listen.
Singles off the album: